Happy Thanksgiving November 28 2019! Born on Thanksgiving Day in 1939, this day is my eightieth birthday.
Although we are not often asked we know our family and associates wonder what is like to be eighty or almost eighty. Grandchildren never think about it. Peers do not dwell on it. Young people (under thirty) really don’t care. It is those persons within twenty years of us who wonder.
Now that I am soon to be an Octogenarian there are a few things I can share with you with the hope that some of it may be a little enlightening.
We may not always speak our criticism but we are much less tolerant than we used to be.
We have more active bladders, must utilize bathroom facilities frequently, wear diapers and become really angry when this phenomenon slows us down or curtails our freedom. We eat anything we want to eat and much of it is not healthy. We smile and tolerate terms like vegan or gluten-free. Hard work is always acceptable if it is deemed necessary to preserve or improve our environment. We have a suppressed fear of falling or of other bone damaging accidents so we do not take chances. This slows us to a pace that annoys our younger associates.
Our philosophical musings have mellowed. We can spot a hypocrite after the first five words from their mouth. We know a lot of stuff and understand “most” of it. We are skilled but know when a task is not worth the effort. We do things which seem foolish but when finished those who called us foolish are often amazed with the results. Money is not part of our goals but we seem to get more stressed by financial crises than when we were younger.
In the next decade, my personal goals include travel. By now I have close lifelong friends who live in places like Australia and Guatemala, who have come to see me often over the past four decades and who now want me to visit them. I really want to go to these places although it is more about being with those friends than having an interest in their exotic homes. I also want to visit my 94 year old aunt in northern California where I spent many amazing weeks as a child traveling with my parents. I do not like long trips but love being with family and friends who were such an important part of my happy memories of growing up.
At 80, many of us prefer sitting at home snuggled in the comforts of our favorite old worn out chair with the TV remote and 1960’s television shows. We have seen some of them but missed most of them the first time around because we were busy young adults when these programs were new. The TV was old folks’ evening entertainment. Television was escape from reality, too idealistic, ignored the problems of society happening all around and basically was a waste of our time. Now we are loving the distraction those same programs provide and are wise enough to realize what value they were to our parents. Much like our reading, action, fantasy, cookie cut mysteries void of explicit sex and violence, constitute our palette of entertainment and can mostly be accessed on networks specializing in very old series of past decades.
Sometimes we must ignore obvious signs of pity and a little condescension among the “fortyish” population. We remember all too well having been of that same mindset a few decades ago. We often wish we could advise these amazing adults with so much to juggle in their lives, families, growing children, financial responsibilities, and concerns for the future. We remember feeling so alone and so inadequate in that period of our lives. We would not consider advice from out of date seniors then and know intuitively that they do not want our input now. My Finnish grandfather had a little plaque in his kitchen that hangs in mine today “Ve grow too soon oldt and too late schmart”.
So I will sit in relative silence in the company of my young friends and family. They will ask when they really need my advice or input. I will continue to work long days and will create the profound and beautiful works of my hands that I love, hoping these creations will be understood and publicly appreciated while I am able to accompany their viewings.
Don’t underestimate the octogenarians around you, glean from their experience if you can and if you are one, be proud.