A Letter to an Unknown Friend on My Birthday

In 2021, I celebrated my 75th birthday.

There’s much to acknowledge. Foremost, I’m lucky to have chosen well in marriage. I found in Nita a woman with selective amnesia: one who is able to forget my flings into foolishness. A month ago, on our 52nd wedding anniversary, I asked her why she chose me. Her response made me blush. “Because you were then who you are now: the very best.” (My wife is either extremely diplomatic or shamefully deceptive. I hope for the former but fear for the latter.)

After my wife, I’m thankful for a modicum of wit and flair, but mostly I’m grateful for health. Although I sometimes scramble my words, all in all, I’m fit as a fender . . . eh fiddle.

Which brings me to my photograph. I took the image today to commemorate the last day of my 75th year on planet earth. Frankly, I thought long about sharing it. I predicted some would judge me as prideful, or worse. But the more I pondered, I realized the image was not for pettifoggers. (Let the pettifoggers wander in fog of pettiness until they dissolve into mist.) The photograph was for one person—any person really, known or unknown—who might take a glance and think, “Damn, if Allen can be fit at 75, maybe I can too.” That would greatly please me.

So, here’s my letter to an unknown friend. (You have permission to eavesdrop.)

Dear Mystery Person:

You can do it; you can beat the odds. It’s true, genetics and a few diseases put some at a disadvantage. But more often the causes for being unfit and overweight—emotional turmoil, inactivity, and overeating (especially simple carbohydrates)—are within our control. 

Consider this. In 1960, 10.7% of American adults were obese. By 2020, that rate had expanded to 42.4%.  Experts say the gain is markedly related to our modern dependence on easy transportation, drive-in restaurants, processed foods, and vending machines. Today, for many Americans, exercise is defined as sitting in a bathtub, pulling the plug, and fighting the current.

Fresh out of college, I became fascinated with preventative medicine. My life changed. Ever since, I exercise daily and enjoy a Mediterranean menu rich in fruit, vegetables, fish, and chicken.

At 75, I still follow the same regime with one exception: At my age, I’ve discovered two meals a day are sufficient. After my one-hour morning workout (alternating daily between lifting and cycling), I make high-protein, high-fiber, fruit-laden smoothies for breakfast. For our one o’clock lunch, Nita prepares a balanced meal from perennial favorites—say a spinach salad with blueberries, pumpkin seeds, and feta cheese crumbles; sweet potatoes; asparagus; and salmon. Consequently, my weight stands resolute at 164 pounds, not bad for my five-foot-ten frame. Am I a bodybuilder ready for competition? Not in my wildest dreams—nor do I care to be. But I am fit.

So, my friend (whoever you are), that’s why I shared my daring photo: to encourage you, maybe even inspire you. There’s a lot of living to do, a lot of adventures to record, a lot of days to love. Make it so. 

Stay healthy; it makes all the difference.

Your secret friend, 


Share this post