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Don’s Views, Observations on Birthdays

When we’re children, memorable birthdays seem to start at about six years old, when we start the first grade.  The next big one might be 13, when we’re officially a teenager.

If you are a Hispanic girl, you might celebrate Quinceanera, the celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday.

Then the 16th birthday comes along and you can get a driver’s license.  The desire to get a driver’s license as soon as possible does not seem as strong as it used to be.

Then 18 and we’re usually out of high school, about to start college, or join the military, or start working full-time.  All big steps in life.

Then we turn 21, we officially become an adult, with a lot of new horizons opening. In our 20’s, many get married and start a family.

Then the birthdays ending in “0” start.  In the 1960s era, there was a saying: “Don’t trust anyone over 30.”  We turn 30, and we think “Wait, slow down.  I still feel 20.  Oh well, I’ve still got it. Forget that ‘don’t trust anyone over 30’ nonsense.”

Then 40 rolls around, and we unquestionably qualify as an adult, whether we act it or not.  Our children are older, if we have children, and we see them start on the birthday count, where it seems we were just a short time ago.

Then the “0” birthdays start getting prefaced with the words “The Big…”, as in “The Big 50”.  The mid-life crisis might rear its head in these years.  When I was in my 50s and lived in Ohio, I acquired something I had always wanted…a red Corvette.  My boss said I was having a mid-life crisis.  I didn’t think of it as a “crisis”, just something I had always wanted and could finally do it.

I proudly entered it in a car show in Toledo.  While dusting my car, I noticed a young lady looking at my car and a red De Tomaso Pantera parked next to me, with the 50-something owner happily polishing his car also.  She frowned and said “Why do all you OLD guys buy these red sports cars!”  We both told her “Because we can!”  She seemed to resent us, never did understand why.

In some professions, it is positive to appear more mature.  For example, I want an airline pilot to be experienced, not newly licensed!  In some professions, looking mature has its pros and cons.  Some people want an older doctor because they have more experience, and some prefer a younger doctor because they may be perceived to be more up to date on the latest innovations.

Then The Big 60 slips up too quickly, and thoughts about retirement are serious.  We usually start to put more into savings accounts.

Then The Big 70 is here in the blink of an eye, and if we’re blessed enough to still be here and healthy, we really want to put the brakes on aging.  We can remember what happened 50 years ago but not why we walked into a room.

In the first half of 2020, the life expectancy of a male was 75.1 years, a decline from 76.3 in 2019.  Life expectancy for females was 80.5 years, a decline from 81.4 in 2019, according to a report from the National Center for Health Statistics.  I’ve read that the Covid pandemic has contributed to this decline in life expectancy.

The music from our youth is our favorite music, and we make comments like “Kids today!” and shake our head in disgust, and snort “What’s this world coming to!”

Shirley Gass from Goree turned 80 last week, and enjoyed a birthday party last Saturday with her family from Knox City, and a surprise birthday party on Sunday evening with her church family in Munday.

My mother celebrated 92 years young last month, and our family custom, like most families, is the person having the birthday can choose whatever they want for dinner.  Mom chose a family favorite: pinto beans, cornbread and fried potatoes.  Not fancy, but it sure is good.

My granddad lived to be 102 years young, born in 1897 and passed away in 2000, so amazingly he lived in three different centuries.  Not many people can claim that.  Starting about the year he turned 90, I would ask him each year “What do you want for your birthday?”  He would say “To see my next one!”, and laugh.

When he was close to 100, I asked him what was the biggest change he had seen in his lifetime.  I expected him to say television, or telephones, or computers.  He thought for a bit and replied “Travel time.  When I was a kid, it took five days to travel by horse and buggy where you can drive now in one hour.”

A few years ago, I had breakfast at home in the Dallas area, took a flight to Chicago, attended an afternoon meeting, flew home that evening and had dinner at home.  He was amazed at that.  Granddad said back in his days as a young man, that would have taken a month even traveling part of the way by train.

Anna Quindlen wrote “For the young, the days go fast and the years go slow; for the old the days go slow and the years go fast.”

There is a book in every person.  Write your memoirs.

Travel when you can, read all you can, savor a good meal, and choose to be happy.  Enjoy each and every day.

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