WALLA WALLA - As a long-standing member of the YMCA, I have always admired the old-timers.
Those septuagenarians and octogenarians - some, perhaps, older still - who show up daily to wage war against the never-ending onset of the aging process. Men and women who refuse to acquiesce to the inevitable decline of physical fitness.
With some, you establish personal relationships. Others
you come to know on a first-name basis. And still others, no more, no less than a simple nod or a smile of recognition.
And then one day you become acutely aware that you haven't seen a certain someone in however long it's been. How long has it been?
And all too often, you can guess the reason why.
The YMCA lost one of its best late last month when Clyde Dyar died at home surrounded by his family. Clyde passed one day shy of his 89th birthday.
Clyde certainly qualified as a YMCA old-timer. But when I met him nearly four decades ago, he was anything but.
We became racquetball rivals back in the 1970s when the Y was still located on Spokane Street. Together we would climb the narrow, winding stairs to those upper-level courts on a near-daily basis and battle it out in singles play for an hour, sometimes two.
With 20-plus years of youth on my side, I had the advantage of speed and quickness back then. Clyde was the more experienced player. It was a combination that led to some spirited competition.
In more recent years, at a time when I was finding it difficult to find singles partners, Clyde invited me to join his group of peers in doubles play. We had all slowed down a step or two by then, and I found doubles to be a completely different game.
But getting back on the court with Clyde made it well worth while.
When a series of medical setbacks finally forced him to give up racquetball in the last few years, Clyde didn't abandon the YMCA. Instead, he turned to the fitness center for his exercise routine, mostly on the stationary bikes.
But what never changed was Clyde's positive attitude, his zest for life and his interest in those around him. I know that he never missed the opportunity to compliment me on a story I had written, and he often offered up story ideas for me to pursue.
Clyde was extremely proud of his military background, too. He served in the Burma-China-India theater during World War II and later in the Korean War. And he traveled great distances to faithfully attend his 490th Bomb Squad reunions.
I couldn't help but notice that each time he returned from one of these reunions, Clyde lamented the squadron's dwindling number of survivors. And following the most recent reunion a year or so ago, he suggested there might not be another.
During one of our more recent conversations, Clyde asked me how old I was. When I told him, his response was: "You lucky dog, you."
That was Clyde's way of telling me to make the most of each and every year.
I seriously doubt that Clyde ever had any fear of death. But he was very much in love with life and was willing to fight the good fight to sustain it.
And his words of wisdom have resonated with me ever since as I draw closer and closer to old-timer status.