Sunday, July 31, 2016

'How Terribly Strange To Be 70'

Margie and me in D.C. yesterday. The air was hot, the feet cool.
I wrote that Paul Simon line for my mother on her 70th birthday in February of 1985. It all seemed "terribly strange" to me then, even as becoming old had the first time I heard the song sung on the Simon & Garfunkel album "Bookends." The title was "Old Friends" and Simon wrote it about old Jews in the park in New York hanging out in a way that was strange to the young songster.

"Old friends, sat on the park bench like bookends; A newspaper blows through the grass, falls on the round toes of the high shoes of the old friends ..."

Old people are, indeed "terribly strange" to young people and I suspect we are even stranger to ourselves and to each other. The standard joke among those attending 50th or 60th reunions is, "Who the hell were all those old people?"

I turned 70 today and I've been practicing for six months telling people about it. I'm adjusting. Still. 70 is not a real number. "I'm only as old as I feel," I keep trying to convince myself and at the same moment I realize another part has failed to work, has fallen off, has become useless. My brain works fine--except when it doesn't--and it keeps saying, "Hey, look at that pretty young girl. What fun it would be if ..." Actually, no, it wouldn't. I can't do what I did. Can't really even think about it seriously.

Taking time to break the rules.
Being 70 means understanding my assignments and none of those includes hotties. There's a lot I can no longer do because of various physical restrictions. I've spent a lot of time since my 40th birthday replacing old activities with new ones--mostly physical. My knee replacement three years ago, restored a lot I had lost and replacement technology makes a lot possible. But it can't make me 25.

At 70 I understand a lot more than I did at 25, 35, 45, 55 ... but I don't know that the knowledge is much of a benefit. I understand politics, for instance. That's like having a personal relationship with the devil. Does it do me any good? No. It only makes my days longer, worrying about what my generation will leave the next. Will Donald Trump be our gift to the future?

I have accomplished far more than I ever dreamed and in some cases, more than I even wanted to. I never had much money, but that was never a goal. I've written books, won awards, loved well and hard (and unwell and unhard), known my grandkids, overcome alcoholism (for 20-plus years), seen my kids grow up and become what I had hoped, owned a home and a business, made friends who've been around for many years, experienced adventure at high levels and ... well ... lived. Not always well, not always successfully, but as fully as I could.

At 70, I can look back and smile. And I can look ahead and anticipate a good bit more to come.

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