by Joe Kemp
It was June 15, and in two days I would be turning thirty. I was insecure about entering a new decade of my life and feared that my best years were now behind me.
My daily routine included going to the gym for a workout before going to work. Every morning I would see my friend Nicholas at the gym. He was seventy-nine years old and in terrific shape. As I greeted Nicholas on this particular day, he noticed I wasn't full of my usual vitality and asked if there was anything wrong. I told him I was feeling anxious about turning thirty. I wondered how I would look back on my life once I reached Nicholas's age, so I asked him, "What was the best time of your life?"
Without hesitation, Nicholas replied, "Well, Joe, this is my philosophical answer to your philosophical question:
"When I was a child in Austria and everything was taken care of for me and I was nurtured by my parents, that was the best time of my life.
"When I was going to school and learning the things I know today, that was the best time of my life.
"When I got my first job and had responsibilities and got paid for my efforts, that was the best time of my life.
"When I met my wife and fell in love, that was the best time of my life.
"The Second World War came, and my wife and I had to flee Austria to save our lives. When we were together and safe on a ship bound for North America, that was the best time of my life.
"When we came to Canada and started a family, that was the best time of my life.
"When I was a young father, watching my children grow up, that was the best time of my life.
"And now, Joe, I am seventy-nine years old. I have my health, I feel good and I am in love with my wife just as I was when we first met. This is the best time of my life."
© 1997 Joe Kemp
Reprinted with permission from author
Note from author:
October 2008 update: Just a little background to this short story. After I had that conversation with Nicholas in 1990, I would share that conversation with people, who were anxious about their upcoming birthday. The birthday that usually represented the next decade in their lives. After approximately 4 years, someone advised me to send it to "chicken Soup for the Soul". It was subsequently selected for their upcoming "5th Portion". By the time it was published I had moved and attended a different Fitness Center. I never knew Nicholas' last name and will probably never know if he, or anyone of his family members were aware that he inspired so many people with his philosophical comment on life. Interestingly, his commentary flowed out of him completely without taking time to ponder. Eighteen years later, he may still be with us or has passed on. Hopefully, he, or someone close to him will have made the connection.