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Inside looking out: Kings of swings

Published March 30. 2019 06:20AM

He’s 38 years old and past his prime.

He’s 89 years young and still doing what he has done for 64 years.

She would be too old today to do this again at age 13.

New York Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning has been criticized for being too old at 38 to play the position anymore. In the National Football League, once players reach 30, many are considered to be in the declining stages of their careers.

Clint Eastwood at age 89 has been acting in motion pictures since 1955. He is also directing films with a new one to debut this year.

In 2014, 13-year-old Monique Davis was a star pitcher in the Little League World Series. She would be ineligible now and too old to play under the current age rule limit at 12.

Laws regarding age limits are far from the same when it comes to how old someone should be to take on a serious responsibility. In South Dakota, a driver of an automobile needs only to reach 14 and half years old to legally drive with a permit, while in New Jersey, 17 is the minimum age.

In Spain, a teen can legally drink on his 16th birthday, and 14-year-olds can buy alcohol if accompanied by an adult. In parts of India, you can’t drink a beer until you reach 30.

How old should you be if your government puts you in harm’s way? The youngest soldier killed in the Civil War was Pennsylvania’s Charlie King at age 13, but the youngest recruit to be in the war was 8-year-old drummer boy Edward Black from Indiana. British WWI soldier Henry Webber is on record as the oldest man to die in combat at age 67.

Have you ever been told to act your age? What if you were 50 years old or older and driving past a swing set in a public playground on a warm sunny day and suddenly you got this urge to park your car and jump onto the swing? People who drive by might see you kicking your feet to the sky and swinging back and forth. Would you feel embarrassed? What if a mommy was pushing her 5-year-old on the swing next to you? She might grab her kid and run for the car.

Age is certainly relative to the passing of time, but the mind often does not accompany the body as the years go by. In Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,” Willy Loman, disgusted that his 34-year-old son can’t hold onto a job, says to him, “You never grew up!”

Growing up to Willy means working in the business world, but his son sees that life of busting your butt to get ahead of the competition as meaningless and a waste of time. Willy commits suicide because of his disappointment in his son, who then goes out West to live on a horse ranch.

I used to tell my students that when I was 11 years old, I wanted to be 18, and then when I was 18, I wanted to be 21, but when I turned 21, I wanted to be 11 again, swinging on the swings and riding my bike down to the pond with my fishing rod propped on the back of my seat.

When I see grandparents delighting in their grandchildren’s silly behaviors, I catch a gleam in grandpa’s and grandma’s eyes. I think they see themselves as the children they once were, laughing and playing like they did so many years ago.

In my fantasy world, I’d open an amusement park called “Eleven Again!” (No children allowed). Minimum age requirement for admission is 50. There’d be swing sets and slides, seesaws and jungle gyms. Wiffle ball, basketball and kickball games would be played all day long. Nobody would keep score. I’d have a musical carousel for longtime married couples, and there’d be bumper cars and a stocked fishing pond.

There’d be special days for retired teachers and days for graying doctors and nurses, and of course, there would be a special grandparents’ day.

Come to Eleven Again! Act silly. Laugh all day long. Be the kid you once were or never were.

Nineteenth century American evangelist Dwight L. Moody wrote, “Preparation for old age should begin not later than one’s teens. A life which is empty of purpose until 65 will not suddenly become filled on retirement.”

Well, Mr. Moody, I agree except that “purpose” during retirement should include some good old-fashioned child’s play. I wonder if there was ever a kid inside of you, Mr. Moody, who never wanted to grow up.

Who wants to find out if your feet can touch the clouds? Go to the playground. Fly high in the sky!

We can once again be the Kings of Swings!

Rich Strack can be reached at katehep11@gmail.com.

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