April 5th was my 72nd birthday, and it sounds old old old. I feel like I am in my 50’s, and people tell me to act as young as I feel. So I do. I played two hours of tennis each of five of the last six days. I did my daily exercises, and have done that now for 514 consecutive days. I still watch my diet and avoid excessive food portions and alcohol. And it has been paying off: the deprivation and discipline are keeping me fit.

Though I haven’t had the serious illnesses that many of my contemporaries faced, I am concluding that a lot of my good health is pure luck. I just happened to be born with “good” genes. And I dodged some accidents that others might not have been lucky enough to avoid. (However I did return from an army tour in Korea on a stretcher with hepatitis.) I don’t quite feel guilty, but the more people of all ages I meet who are sick or injured, the more I feel a bit apologetic. I am even hesitating to write these public words, because I don’t want to upset others who read them. Or create jealousy.

In a doubles tennis match this week, I kept returning balls at the net that one opponent was hammering at me. He became so frustrated that I almost felt sorry for him. He kept his cool and often hit away from me, but he seemed to grimace a lot each time I volleyed his ball back for a point. Why in the world do I feel the least bit of empathy for his frustration? I wish I had the killer instinct on the court or was at least indifferent to his annoyance. Yet that is not who I am…I feel badly.

Similarly when I can move and play sports ably, while others are handicapped by age, injury and infirmity, I feel defensive. Yet so much of it is just luck. I just happen to be controlled enough to exercise, to stop eating when I am full, and to eat more healthfully by avoiding fat and salt. It’s who I am and how I turned out.

Sometimes it’s hard to accept who we are, whether bad and failing or good and succeeding. I know, I know…it’s a high-class problem…and after writing these words earlier, I read the paper and saw that an acquaintance I liked died a couple of weeks ago after a long battle with cancer. She was 71.

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