The Big Seven-Oh

Turning seventy is like going off the high-dive for the first time.

I mean…you just didn’t get there all of a sudden. Know what I mean? When you were a kid and you stood there poolside staring up at that towering diving board for the first time, there came a vague realization. But it came and went. You may have thought about climbing up there with the older kids and taking the leap, but you didn’t. It was a process of graduating steps.

Take that period when you first turned fifty. Nowadays fifty isn’t necessarily all that old, but it is comparable to that time when you first walked to the bottom of the ladder and stood staring up at that diving board, a stark chrome and blue contraption, silhouetted against the cobalt sky of summer. Quickly, you avert your eyes to the other kids splashing, sunning and enjoying the glittering waters of the pool. You draw a deep breath, inhaling the clashing odors of chlorine and cocoa suntan oil before regaining your senses and scurrying to the concession stand for a cold cup of Dr. Pepper.

Then come your sixties. Yup. You’ve again wandered over to the base of the ladder and now you’re actually gripping the shiny chrome rails as you stare up at the line of kids clinging to the ladder above. This time is different. The ladder beckons and you have no choice but to begin climbing. The amazing thing about your sixties is how fast that line of kids quickly slides upward and you suddenly find yourself out there on the board. From the vantage point of the high-dive, you look down on the sun-soaked glistening bodies of the girls lying on their towels far below. You are also now looking down at the lifeguard lounging in his lookout chair, and you can see the pipes and vents on the roof of the pool house below. This new perspective reveals things you have never before noticed. Yet there is more.

As you edge your way out to the end of the board your senses have suddenly become keenly focused and you can see the distant golf course with its emerald greens and duffers in colorful shirts and trousers. The shafts of their clubs glint in the sunlight, and the water tower out there on the horizon no longer seems so tall, because you are now looking across at it. The colors, the odors, the balmy breeze, all have become more intense. And you take a quick glance down at the sun rippled blue waters far below, their beauty doing little to disguise the landing pad that you know must be more like concrete than water.

“Hurry up!” some kid shouts, and that’s the moment when you realize you really have no choice. It’s time to face it. You flex your knees slightly and give a little bounce as you test the board. Quickly you regain your balance and wait for the board to stop quivering, but that’s when you see the big “seven-oh” staring you in the face. Your sixties are gone and it’s time. You must jump.

Today, I am there. I turned 70. I have leapt from the high-dive into the deep end of old age. Like Slim Pickens’ character Major T. J. Kong in the movie Doctor Strangelove, I am riding the nuclear bomb from the belly of a B-52 shouting “Yaaaaahooooo!” And speaking of “strange,” I feel as if I’ve been in this dive since I was eighteen when the army first gave me an M-16 and a parachute. And as it was that first time when you dove from the high board and hit the water, you realize that it’s really not so bad after all.

The Birdhouse Man

This is the official announcement: The Birdhouse Man is Now Available.

The Birdhouse Man, a novel by Rick DeStefanis, is now available on Amazon.com at https://amzn.to/2ySrJ0H, or bulk wholesale for booksellers through Ingram Books at https://www.ingramcontent.com/, or can be ordered retail through your local book store. Currently available in Kindle E-reader and paperback formats, The Birdhouse Man is a story about an aging Vietnam War veteran and a young college journalism student and the trials they both face. Fair warning: This is not an action/adventure story.

This is a story summary:  Sam Walker pulls no punches when he tells his Vietnam War story to college journalism student, Claire Cunningham. As Sam shares his unapologetic and unvarnished viewpoint, he begins to suspect Claire’s thesis work isn’t her only reason for interviewing him. When his tale unfolds, the seventy-three-year-old veteran and the young woman discover they are both grappling with questions, loss, and loneliness, but believe that together they may find some answers to help bring the closure that has eluded them.

In the Birdhouse Man, as Sam relates his time in Vietnam, the story ranges from 1967 jungles of Vietnam to the current day campus at Appalachian State University and point between.

Now Available on Amazon

I wish to extend sincerest thanks and appreciation to the many editors, Beta-readers, and content experts for their contributions to the writing of this story. In no particular order, they are listed here:

Robert (Doc Enz) Enzenauer, Brigadier General, Retired, United States Army, United States Military Academy, Class of 1975, 19th Special Forces (Green Beret), OEF2, FOB 195, July 2002-June 2003, Kabul, Afghanistan, 5/19th SFG(A), Colorado Army National Guard, OIF2, Camp Victory, Baghdad, Iraq, 928th ASMC Area Support Medical Company, Colorado Army National Guard, 004. MD, MPH, MSS, MBA, Professor of Ophthalmology and Pediatrics, Chief of Ophthalmology, Children’s Hospital of Colorado, Aurora, Colorado. Oh, yeah, and one knee replacement—happens when you jump out of enough airplanes: All the Way, Doc, AIRBORNE!

Robert (Bob) Walker, Captain, Drafted 1966, OCS 8/1967, Fort Benning, GA. US Army Ranger, Republic of Vietnam 1968-69. Recon platoon leader for 2 months then company commander for the remainder of his tour. 2nd/39th Infantry, 1st Recondo Brigade, 9th Infantry Division (AO-Mekong Delta). Twenty-six decorations including four Bronze Stars with V devices, Soldiers Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, three Silver Stars and The Distinguished Service Cross. Bob was my first boss at FedEx and I believe he can still wear his original set of dress blues. He is also a man for whom I hold the highest respect.

Lionel (Tony) Atwill, Lieutenant, OCS-6/1967, US Army Ranger, and Airborne School-Fort Benning, Georgia. Third Special Forces Group-1967, 1st Infantry Division, Republic of Vietnam 1968-1969, Recon platoon leader, 2/18th. Two Bronze Stars with V devices, Purple Heart Medal, Air Medal and Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. Tony lived it and provided much of the vital detail for this story. He lives in God’s country, smack in the middle of the Colorado Rockies. I am jealous.

Orlando (Orie) Illi, LTC, U.S. Army (Ret) retired from the U.S. Army Acquisition Corps after a 36 year combined Active Duty / Federal Civil Service Career. He was Commissioned from OCS in 1978 and retired as a LTC from the Faculty of the Defense Systems Management College (DSMC). He was subsequently appointed as a HQDA GS-15 where he served as Deputy Product Manager for the Army’s Tactical Electronic Medical Records Program until his retirement from Civil Service. LTC Illi is a designated National Security Professional and attended training at the Department of State, FEMA, DHS and National Defense University on Inter-Agency National Security Coordination. LTC Illi was a Finalist for the 2009 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America National Security and International Affairs Medal and was inducted into the Army OCS Hall of Fame in 2019.

Jeremy Klages, Captain, United States Army, 1992-1997, United States Military Academy, class 1992. Military Intelligence 1-6 Infantry, 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Germany (Balkan Theater), Task Force Able Sentry 1994, Joint Task Force Provide Promise 1995, Army Achievement Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Meritorious Service Medal. Jeremy provided some of the most detailed feedback and suggestions that made this story what it is. He is also an author and an outstanding writer in his own right. Check out the Kade Sims technothriller series by Jay Klages.

Carol Carlson, childhood friend, editor, fact-checker and mother and daughter of military veterans. It’s a fact: In the 1960s, we sat in the limbs of a mimosa tree between our yards and chewed the fat long before either of us reached puberty. Ellen Morris Prewitt, friend, author, and an accomplished writer of Southern Fiction. Her input and suggestions always make me a better writer. https://ellenmorrisprewitt.com/

Chris Davis, friend, writer, and an outstanding critic and story editor.

Todd Hebertson, friend, writer, and the best cover designer in the business. Email: mypersonalartist@hotmail.com or visit his website at www.bookcoverart.webs.com.

Elisabeth Hallett, unmatched as a line editor, she is the last set of eyes on the manuscript before it goes to print. Elisabeth is another of those fortunate souls who live in God’s country, the Bitterroot Valley of Southwestern Montana. Contact her at soultrek@montana.com.

Author E.M.S., My All Everything! My formatter, guide, and general “keep me from screwing up” people, they are top-notch professionals.

If you are one of these contributors, I beg your patience. You will receive a copy soon.

Tornado Repairs, A New Audio Book and Other News

This update is to let everyone know what’s been happenning around here in recent months: The tornado cleanup, the Covid-19 sequesture and YES, finally my new audiobook. And, oh yeah, the fifth book in my Vietnam War Series is soon to be published.

My wife and I live in rural Mississippi. Unlike our neighbors up in Tennessee, our area suffered no deaths during the recent tornado outbreak. Despite a massive amount of property damage there were only some pets and livestock killed in DeSoto County Mississippi. We send prayers to those who lost loved ones up around Nashville and Cookville. As for the local scene: The roof and gutters have now been replaced on the house, courtesy of Liberty Mutual, and all the big oak trees have been chain sawed into pieces and bulldozed away. Even after two months it promises to be a long cleanup effort.

Although Janet is required to work, we are minimizing our trips outside the house with the COVID-19 threat. There has also been a record amount of rainfall in the last month, restricting me to mostly indoor activities, and thus bringing long delayed projects to the top of my “to-do-list.” I’ve been cleaning out the barn, cleaning the shop, changing the oil in every mower, trimmer and machine I own, making and freezing six quarts of spaghetti gravy, opening the desktop computer and vacuuming the dust. Hell, I even made a failed attempt to till the muddy garden….I could go on, but I believe you get the idea.

So, what’s next?

A New Audio Book

The Gomorrah Principle is now available as a new audio book.

 

How about an audiobook?  Yes.  My award-winning novel, The Gomorrah Principle, is now available as an audiobook through Amazon audible. Most of my faithful readers prefer print or ebooks, but some have said, “I don’t have time to read books. Let me know when it’s out in audible.”………Well:

IT’S OUT!!

Click the link below to order your copy:

https://www.audible.com/pd/B0868DR925/?source_code=AUDFPWS0223189MWT-BK-ACX0-185568&ref=acx_bty_BK_ACX0_185568_rh_us

COMING SOON.

My next book, The Birdhouse Man, will be the fifth in The Vietnam War Series and is a story about an aging Vietnam War veteran telling his story to a young journalism major for her senior thesis. It will be out in the next couple weeks.

 Check out more books at: www.rickdestefanis.com