Reflections on the past and looking to the future

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At age 67, my days still start at 0500, or 5 a.m. to those who measure time that way, with a routine of checking newspapers online at places where I have lived over the years.

The first stops at each publication are the “obituaries” because, at 67, the chances are that someone I know will be listed there.

This morning brought obits in St. Louis; Alton, Illinois; and Washington, DC that included people I knew and/or worked with during the times living and working there.

Discovering the passing of friends and/or acquaintances, old and new, is an unfortunate part of life in one’s later years.  Revisiting newspapers that were part of my life also keeps me in touch with news about other items that brings reflection on the past.

In the St. Louis Post Dispatch last fall, I learned about the decline of the first place I lived in the “Gateway to the West” as St. Louis is called.  Lewis & Clark Tower was a circular apartment building modeled after Marina Towers in Chicago.  My first wife and I lived there for several years before moving across the river to Alton, Illinois, and buying a row house in the town’s historic district.

In the Post Dispatch, I also found a story about the demise of “Top of the Riverfront,” a revolving restaurant on the top of what was Stouffer’s Hotel in downtown St. Louis in 1969.  The hotel went through several ownership changes before closing a year ago and the restaurant is also closed.  We had one of our first “nice” dinners there in 1969 and several others over the 12 years in the area.

Amy — second, current and permanent wife — and I ate there shortly before leaving the area to move to “the National Capital Region” in Washington in 1981.

Browsing the pages of The Washington Post over the 10 years that we have lived in Floyd, I have discovered that The Magic Pan, a favorite restaurant at Seven Corners in Falls Church, is gone.  It was the last surviving restaurant in the chain when it went bust.

We can still relive some of the Washington days at Five Guys Hamburger locations in Blacksburg, Christiansburg and Roanoke.  Five Guys started while we lived in Arlington and we ate often at the original location on Columbia Pike.

A private note on Facebook this morning came from a lady friend in Alton to let me know that a mutual friend had died.  The lady with the news was a close and intimate friend during my single days between marriages and we remain friends today along with others during that raucous, racy and fun period.

I feel lucky and fortunate that several such friends remain.  Others are gone now and that brings sadness.  An obit in The Roanoke Times listed a woman I knew and dated during my time as a reporter at that paper from 1965-69.  She was a few years older but we shared an intense relationship that is remembered fondly and with a smile.

Still, at 67, I prepare for the future.  I love my wife, we love our life and we have faced and overcome adversity over the years.

Amy was there to support me when I took the first step towards sobriety 20 years, 10 months and seven days ago.  She was there for me when I lay near death in 2012 after “the great cow encounter” on my Harley-Davidson.  I will be there for her in the coming weeks when she has back surgery after a series of shots last year only temporarily corrected the intense pain that makes movement difficult and extremely uncomfortable.

We will get through this. Our future lies ahead.  We plan to be there and part of it.

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