When turning 70 I received a phone call from my brother Bill who is 3.5 years older than I. It was an interesting discussion we had. He asked me how I was feeling about turning 70 and I said not great. It was what I thought of as an old age and not one to be overly happy about in spite of the folks who say things like “consider the options”.
Bill told me that on his 70th birthday he had thought of that day as very different from other birthdays. Billy loves his trains and has for years had model train set-ups in his basement and in ours when we were kids. So he used an analogy of a train moving down the tracks. Former “big” birthdays he could see so much more coming down the tracks as he moved forward. When he turned 70 for the first time he had a sense that there was an end to the line. It was not dramatic but it was just this feeling that the trip was coming to an end at some point in the future. He could not have defined my feelings better for me.
Each decade birthday has been different. When 60 rolled around it was kind of exciting. Looking forward to retirement, travel, time with family and friends and happily being able to sleep in as much as I chose to. 50 was really fun. A friend at my work at the time at Samaritan Hospital said she loved turning 50. No longer thinking about if you look just right when you stepped out in the morning or going out to dinner. After all, who was looking anyway? was how she put it. And you just get to stop worrying about the future. The kids are either grown or almost there. The job is what it is and you either hope to stay there until you retire or you can jump ship and find another job. She had an interesting view of life and I liked it. It was going to be her time and I embraced that. I did move on to one job from hell and then to a wonderful job and finally my dream job. All that happened after age 50.
When I turned 40 they had I believe a surprise birthday party for me in the neighborhood which was a lot of fun. But 40 had more going on than 50. I saw myself as being tied down for another decade with kids, tight finances, and wondering what kind of job I could get. I was already working with kids for minimum wage or just above. I liked the work but it was high school graduate pay and having a BA and almost a Masters I did not feel that education was worth anything. But after my funk over that I ended up going back to college and getting a MA and it got me decent pay eventually and a great career that I will always be grateful for. I am so thankful to Frank Doberman who was my guide in the second half of my life. He sat a few of us down at work and said, “you all had degrees in the past but stayed home with children which was a good thing for you, but you are not going anywhere in these jobs. If you want advancement then you have to go back to school and get another degree” and to me personally he suggested I find something to do that was not kid oriented. He felt I had 4 high energy kids and needed more interaction with adults. So that is what I did. He helped me so much I can never forget him.
So as you get older folks, just know each decade brings with it new challenges and so much awareness it is almost scary at times. This year turning 75 sends a strong message that if there are things I want to accomplish now is the time. The day is going to arrive when my kids say to me, no more driving Mom, or that house is too much for you to handle. I am going to have to be honest with myself about those statements. My mother could not face what was happening to her and as a result we took over her life and she could not stop us. I hope I don’t get dementia but one never knows what will happen. But I feel like I have to be prepared for the best and the worst. Sound hard, sure it is but better to be realistic than to hide in our dreams of how we wish things were. Celebrate being older, but do it with honesty..