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On this side of a birthday
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Originally, this column was inspired by one written by Ted Oglesby in The (Gainesville) Times. 


True, it was written about a specific local issue, but its premise was, I believe, important:  One should open his/her mind to the other side of an issue or become a prisoner to a certain point of view.


That statement is particularly true concerning politics, both local and national. 


One who listens only to the Hannitys or Olbermans of the commentary scene will certainly have a warped view  — and if either of these names is unfamiliar, you may already be there.


When I was a debater in college (a hundred years ago), I learned that I could not defend my own argument without completely researching both sides of the question. 


In fact, I occasionally participated in tournaments in which we had to be able to be on either the affirmative or the negative team. That entailed deciding on a desirable solution that might be approached from more than one angle. Not always easy, but at least it necessitated viewing the subject from more than one perspective.


That kind of analysis seems to me an appropriate one for most aspects of our lives and relationships. Even if I do not agree with another’s viewpoint, I should be able to understand it and know why I disagree.


Events in my personal life, however, caused me to shift my focus to the other side of my latest birthday. 


Actually passing 85 (which I did on July 1), instead of just speculating about it, has brought some realities.


For instance, facing one’s own mortality.  My friend Ann Linse, who went on the other side of 85 before I did, has made the decision to give up her home and many friends in Dawson County, where she has lived for more than 30 years, in favor of moving into a retirement complex in South Carolina near the families of her son and grandsons. 


She is still active, alert and vivacious, and has lived quite independently as a widow for a number of years.  Then comes the realization that, at best, the years are numbered in which we can continue such a lifestyle. I will sorely miss Ann, but I applaud her decision.


Because most of my remaining family (including in-laws) are in this area, such uprooting is not a decision I must face, but there are a multitude of other realities that become more and more obvious. 


The property which Morris and I enjoyed keeping at least fairly presentable has become more and more unkempt. Acreage of which we were proud reverts to its chaotic state — that’s nature’s way, you know.


The old farmhouse whose remodeling we “showed off” almost three decades ago is still comfortable (and I love it), but when compared with most of the homes I visit, is frankly dowdy:  kitchen with traditional counters (nary a slab of granite), screened-in porch instead of air-conditioned sunroom, powder room barely large enough to accommodate old bodies as they have grown fat and decrepit. 


If you’re familiar with “The Plugger” cartoon, you recognize me, on the other side of 85.


A “plugger’s” confession: In the trunk of my car there is a three-pronged cane that I keep in case I need to climb stairs with no handrail.  And looming overhead, the possibility that could become reality: losing the ability to take that car and go where I need or desire.


Helen Taylor’s column appears periodically in the Dawson Community News.