KENNEWICK -- They call themselves “inmates” — and they’re doing some time. But it’s at a place no one is dying to get out of — at least not yet.
Meet Tom, Bill and John who are having way too much fun at an assisted living complex in California to leave. I made their acquaintance recently while staying with friends — new residents in one of the homey apartments.
A shout-out from Tom each morning at breakfast had us choosing a table in close proximity to the gang. There, with no threat from a loss of chuckles at “inmate” mealtime jokes — and a snippet of stories -– I found myself taking the pen to paper.
Guarded at first, they soon relaxed and shared some of their history while they pieced together a jigsaw puzzle in the library. With each word, I realized these weren’t just a bunch of “old guys,” but men with heartfelt tales of their days gone by.
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Bill retired from the U.S. Army as a colonel, having seen action as a young man during World War 2 in Gen. Patton's unit. His clear blue eyes never indicate the pain he must have witnessed; instead there’s always a twinkle.
Nowadays, Bill sports a West Point ring on one finger, the only visible indication he courageously served his country.
John was career military, too, and that’s probably why the “inmates” have found common ground; an understanding of what it takes to protect America. He retired from the "Air Force after many years as a “full-bird” also. I was quick to tell him how much I appreciate the sacrifices he made afar so these days I enjoy peace at home.
Tom, younger than the rest — and with military service, too — left the banking industry after 37 years, his career cut short by a malignant brain tumor.
Before tragic health issues brought him to this place, he ran marathons with a finish time of 3 hours and 15 minutes at age 55. Later, in spite of his poor physical condition, he continued to actively follow his Rotarian motto “Service Above Self” — even when it was difficult.
It’s clear to me that none of these men have taken life’s easy path. Instead, Bill, John and Tom have always chosen to serve others.
I’d say these “inmates” — as they like to call themselves — are actually “in for good behavior.” My hope is that my new friends don’t breakout anytime soon.