Sixty-nine years ago this morning a doctor in a hospital in Tampa, Florida helped deliver a son to Ethel and Tommy Thompson.

According to my mother, the doctor told her afterwards that I did not cry when he delivered the customary slap on my butt to wake me up.

“You just sort of snorted,” she said.  December 17, 1947, was a Wednesday, the 351s day of the year.  This year, the same date is the 352nd day.  It’s a Leap Year.

I arrived two weeks early.  Supposed to be born on or around Jan. 1, 1948.  Typical.  I’ve been impatient most of my life.  I was a member of the Class of ’66 at Floyd County High School more than 50 ago but went into my Senior Year as part of the Class of ’65.  I went to Summer School and crammed extra classes by skipping study halls for two years to get enough points to graduate early.

Part of the reason for pushing the limits was a belief that I would not live to see my 30th birthday.  My father died in an industrial accident at 29.  His four brothers died before they reached 30. My paternal grandmother in Florida felt the male side of our family had a curse. She outlived all of her children.

Broken bones and serious injuries became part of a devil-may-care lifestyle.  Serious injuries left me in a coma and facing death in my early 20s.  I started drinking at 15 and got drunk on December 16, 1977, and partied like it was the last day of my life.

The young lady who woke up with me the next morning turned over, kissed me awake, and said “Happy 30th birthday!”  It took a few minutes for my hangover-laden brain to convince me that “the curse” was broken.

Today, I reach 69.  Four years ago, my 65th birthday arrived with me in a hospital bed, recovering once again from serious injuries that put me in a coma and damn near killed me.  I got older but many still shake their heads and doubt any wisdom came with the aging.

Sixty-nine.  That’s 828 months,  3,588 weeks, 25,203 days (including leap years), 604,872 hours, 36,292,320 minutes or 2,177,539,200 seconds.  Anyway you count, it says fairly old.

In all that time, I have managed to quit drinking (sober 22 years, six months and 11 days), been lucky enough to find the love of my life, Amy, and spend the last 37 years of our lives together and been fortunate enough to witness more than a fair share of life’s memorable minutes.

At 69, I’m fortunate to still work in the profession I love, spend my days, and nights, with a wife, partner and friend I also love, and have beaten death more times than I deserve.

Someone asked recently: “How many of your nine lives have you used?”  My answers; “Oh, about 15 or 16.

For reasons that are both spiritual and bawdy, I can say with a smile; “69 is devine.”