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Here I sit, serenely, awaiting another new year. Getting to be an old hand at this calendar stuff, I reckon.

Neither the new year nor the looming decade of the 1990s intimidate me. Most assuredly not the way the 1960s once did.Ah, yes, the 1960s. How well I remember the rise and fizzle of that dynasty, with all its rebellious glories and infamies. But I also recall looking ahead to that same decade from the perspective of the mid-to-late 1940s, the end-of-the-war years.

Somewhere in that era I read an article in which the author offered predictions for the 1960s. The 1960s! The prospect of no other era has hit me like it since. The '60s! Shiver me timbers.

Maybe it was simply the mystique of the number 60. When I was a boy 60 miles per hour was the ultimate speed for family flivvers. Anything beyond was unthinkable or unlawful.

The fastest kid on the block, therefore, "ran like 60." (More genteel than "he ran like a bat outta hell.")

One's 60th birthday also hovered heavily as a landmark notch in one's life; but, again, so distant as to be unimaginable, perhaps unattainable.

No, the '60s were just too futuristic for me to handle when I came marching home from the war.

The lucky lot of us were too busy, you see, wallowing in the new-found liberty of the sweet, wide-open days of the late 1940s.

Some had already found the partners they wanted to love and board with, while the rest of us went on searching. But it was all right. No need for haste. Forever, we felt, was on our side.

Who can stand up today to say he or she made all the right moves back in those wondrous times? But we tried. We did try.

Without overtaxing my memory, I recall days feeling that the war would never end, that the Army was the only life I'd ever know, that I would never again be able to freely exercise the priceless privilege of stepping into a bathroom in private.

But you know what? The shooting stopped. The 1940s poured into the 1950s, and suddenly, like lo and behold, man, it was a slap-happy new year and welcome to the future, to the 1960s!

From there, life blurred by. But after facing the fact that the hill would keep crowding me no matter what - the hill all must one day climb over - I stopped being intimidated by the future.

That's why I can sit here today looking back, slowly adding up my blessings of the '80s. Doing it this way, serenely, is a lot less scary than watching your life flash in front of your eyes.

Easily the best of the diminishing decade was waking up each morn. The bonuses:

Sunrise, sunset, books, hot showers, a little light thunder, gentle rain, the weekly poached egg, spaghetti, thick soup, this column, my 62nd birthday, retirement, retirement checks, finding my dad's Irish birthplace, the paper, afternoon naps, my first bicycle, church bells, my 65th birthday, PBS dramas, loving and hugging, and - my very own bathroom.

(SB) Retired Orlando Sentinel staffer Ed Hayes, 65, is a free-lance writer living in Orlando.