THIS AND THAT: ‘How terribly strange to be seventy’

September 22, 2018

“Can you imagine us years from today,

Sharing a park bench quietly

How terribly strange to be seventy”

— from “Old Friends,” written by Paul Simon

As a student and even a young adult, the idea of reaching 70 never occurred to me.

After all, that number of years was so outrageous, so unimaginable, so indigestible it was hard to process that anyone ever got to be that old. My grandparents were approaching seven decades at that point in my life, but they were ancient.

One week ago, I eclipsed that mark myself and joined most of my high school graduation classmates in arriving at that suddenly reachable, remarkable age. Seventy is not nearly as old as it used to be.

With the birthday approaching, the words to the Simon and Garfunkel song above took on new meaning. “How terribly strange to be seventy.” And as strange as it may be, achieving that age is also special.

As a young man, I probably thought that 70 meant sitting in a rocker on the front porch watching the world go by. What could there be to look forward to at that age? Aren’t the best years behind and the future only holding an empty casket waiting for an occupant?

No, at 70 there is still much to be excited about, things to anticipate and stuff to do. This is the time to sprint toward the finish line and not hold back on anything. There are grown children to spend time with, grandchildren to appreciate and love, new places to visit, old friends to see.

This is the time to do as much as possible until we are no longer able. Putting things off until next year or even next month should not be an option. While we may have another 20 years ahead of us, there is also the possibility we might not.

A couple of years ago my wife and I hiked to the top of Table Rock Mountain. It was an arduous trek for two people in their upper 60s, but it is something we are unable to do today because of health restrictions. Had we waited, we would have missed out on spectacular views and a notable adventure.

This year we took two grandkids on an Alaska cruise and were able to watch them enjoy the beauty of our 49th state. It was a tiring 10 days, but a trip filled with memories we hope they will cherish for years to come. We will.

At this age there is an appreciation for the world that was often missing in my earlier years. I care much less about possessions and am more interested in people and places. A gorgeous sunrise, a flock of birds, flowering fields in spring and autumn’s reds and golds mean more than a new suit or pair of shoes.

Lunch with friends at the local barbecue shack is better than dining on steak and lobster alone. For that matter, even if we skipped the barbecue, being with friends is better.

I now appreciate a round of golf more for the people I play with and the natural beauty of the outdoors than for the score I shoot. (And that’s a good thing since some of my scores are getting pretty high.)

It’s been quite a while since I have tried to impress people. They can accept me or not, that’s up to them. There is a special freedom about getting older. Maybe that’s the strange part about turning 70. I’m trying to look at this age as the new 40, not the last decade till 80.

Happy birthday to all of us who have reached this magical time of life.

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