Saturday, March 21, 2015

On Seventy ~ Reflections on Becoming a Septuagenarian

Last year about this time, a dear friend and I met to write.  We spoke of our upcoming seventieth birthdays.  We thought we should take the year to reflect on the milestone event that would soon be upon us.  What lessons would we learn as we approached the eighth decade of our lives?  What, if anything, could we learn about life before we became septuagenarians?

Having read many of May Sarton's journals over the years, I went in search of her book At Seventy: A Journal.  I knew I had read it before, but found I had gotten rid of it when we moved.  So, off to the library I went to find it for a re-reading.  Interestingly, I found little insight in this particular journal.  She did determine that during her seventieth year, she would journal for one entire year.  I thought I might try to do better than that.  I toyed with the idea of writing fifteen minutes a day for one year.  

We are now twenty-one days since my seventieth birthday.  Needless to say, I have not written everyday.  I have however had some reflections on reaching this milestone in life.

In At Seventy: A Journal,Sarton wrote, 
How is seventy different from sixty-five?  I don't see much difference, except that time accelerates.  The days go past with frightening rapidity, and so do the years.  It is plain that I am not ready for old age!  But then time does not stand still for old age I fear.  On the contrary, from all reports, it simply flies away, and that is what I am beginning to notice.  

Did her words ring true?
Is seventy different than sixty-five?
I thought I might take a look back.
What was my sixtieth birthday like?
Wow, talk about time accelerating.
My grandchildren were not teenagers when I was sixty.
Time simply flies away...
Mason was six and Hannah and Atticus were two.
I could hold the two younger ones in my arms.  Now they are all taller than I am.
I ventured up on the trampoline the day I turned sixty, just to see if I could still jump.
I could.
It is plain that I am not ready for old age! 
60th birthday
I was excited to turn sixty-five.
Having officially retired at age sixty-one, I was still working until sixty-five for insurance benefits.
At sixty-five, my medicare coverage kicked in and I was thrilled.
I felt good.
I was healthy.
True retirement was something I was looking forward to with great anticipation.
I had much I wanted to accomplish.
On the day of my sixty-fifth birthday, my high school girl friends gathered at my home.
It was a planned gathering that happened to occur on my birthday.
Here are some photos from that day.

The group photo, my photo at age sixty-five, and a few of the girls.

One cannot reflect upon reaching the eighth decade of life without remembering that dear ones have been lost along the way.
On that day of my sixty-fifth birthday, we could not know that
before the year was out, my girlfriends and I would lose Judy, our dearly loved classmate.
She had been fighting cancer, but she was well and looked so good that day.
In the photos above, she is sitting in the place of honor, the gold chair. 
Sadly, she did not reach the milestone the rest of reach this year of becoming
septuagenarians.

I also lost my dear daughter during my sixty-fith year.
She died three months after my birthday.
For half a decade, I have learned the meaning of bereavement.

At seventy, I am much different than I was at sixty-five. 

Mark Twain shared his wisdom at seventy:

I have achieved my seventy years in the usual way, by sticking strictly to a scheme of life which would kill anybody else....I will offer here, as a sound maxim, this: That we can't reach old age by another man's road.
Mark Twain

My life was pretty simple in many ways until I hit sixty-five.
It was filled with some sorrow and disappointments, but mostly, I was quite pleased with the path my life had taken.
My children were grown and it seemed they had launched successfully.
I had just retired from a profession for which I still held great passion.
I thought I would continue to teach some, write some, travel some, and garden a lot.
Grief took away many of those plans.
In the past five years, I think I have come to think more deeply about what is most important in my life.
Also, I refuse to believe that just because I am seventy, I am old.

I prefer the following quote over Mark Twain's.

The first forty years of our life give the text, the next thirty furnish the commentary upon it, which enables us rightly to understand the true meaning and connection of the text with its moral and its beauties. 
Schopenhauer

The commentary on my first forty years won't be recorded here. 
(Let out a sigh of relief for that!)

At forty, would I ever believe I would be where I am today?
No, never in my wildest dreams would I have known what was in my future.
That is a good thing.
Along with the loss that I have suffered, I've know great joy.
I have been richly blessed.

As I reach seventy, I've learned I have treasures I always longed for when I was younger.

Today, I will touch on several treasures that only get better with age.

The Treasure of Friendship

There is great beauty in sharing the lives of those I knew before I knew much about life.
I made wonderful friends when I was a young, very naive teenager.
Now, the great gift of life is that I get to enter the eighth decade of my life with these dear women.
They gathered at my home last weekend.


Every time we get together, we hug on each other like long lost friends.
We laugh.
We share our stories.
We poke fun.
We encourage.
We know what we have is precious and rare.
We celebrate each other and the group.

This time we had several with us whom either have never joined us before, or live far away.
We have 50 years to catch up on with these few.
Kathy and Elaine, seen over the ham I cooked,
came early to sweep my doorway, 
set up tables,
keep me calm and focused,
and show me they are there to remember what I forgot.
We held a planning meeting so we could plan our big
Seventieth Birthday Party
that will be held in September.
We will go to Glenwood Springs, Colorado for three days of celebration.
I call our trip that we are planning 
Our Senior Trip.
The ladies heard of room rates, things to do, and dinner plans as we held our
Senior Meeting
in my living room.
Did I hear someone is bringing a case of white wine?
Someone else is bringing a case of red wine?
Goodness.
Watch out.
The true golden girls are getting ready to celebrate.


The Treasure of a Loving Husband

When my milestone birthday was drawing near, I knew I wanted to celebrate it in a special way.
I didn't want a party.
Who wants to clean the house?
My birthday falls on February 28, so it is not a good time for the children to come from out of state.
They have jobs and kids that keep them busy in February.
The weather is unpredictable.
Instead of a party, we decided we would go to Florida to celebrate my birthday.


I've known my husband as long as I've known the girlfriends whom I just wrote about.
Just like the laughter and the memories that I share with them, I share such wonderful memories of days gone by with my husband.
He has been that one that has always been there for me.
Even when I was a young woman, I knew the young man I first dated fifty-four years ago this week would make me laugh.
I knew he would always show me respect.
I knew he was one I could easily honor and respect.
I knew he would be a gentle, kind, understanding companion.
I knew he would give me a good life.
I just didn't marry this dear man until I was forty-seven years old.
Sometimes, youth makes one stupid.
Sometimes we get wiser with age.
At least, this man, the one I love, and I got together in the end.

Never would I have believed back in those days that at 70 Jim would be at my side.
Never in my wildest dreams did I believe that.
Thankfully, he is here with me.
At sixty-five, when my life turned upside down, he was there.


At seventy, we acted like a couple of kids at Disney's Magic Kingdom.
We walked around wide eyed and forgot that our bodies were aging.
We laughed ourselves silly on rides that we maybe shouldn't have ridden.
Thankfully, neither of us had a heart attack.
Jim took a selfie of us just before we went for one of those crazy rides.


On Valentine's Day, two weeks before I turned seventy, my love and I walked on Daytona Beach. 
Now here's something to celebrate:
We both are septuagenarians,
but we still love to have those romantic moments on the beach.

We met as teenagers, and we get to enter the last years of our lives together.
Life doesn't get any better than this.
A Valentine's Day Kiss
2015
I'm learning this at seventy:

The older the fiddle, the sweeter the tune.
Irish Saying


20 comments:

#1Nana said...

Lovely...your writing, your reflections, your heart. I'm so glad I met you as we entered our golden years. You expand my perspective. I hope we have many more years to walk the path of enlightenment together.

Anonymous said...

Your reflections are so honest and heart warming. Thank you for sharing...one of those friends from the past...E. J.

Kay said...

This is so wonderful, Sally. You are both beautiful at every age and I don't think any of us are ready for old age. My uncle is 95 and he doesn't really act like he's old either. He says he feels great! Let's all be like him. You and Jim are definite soul mates.

Terri Tiffany said...

You made me cry. Perfect timing to read this as I turn Sixty today and was trying to make sense of it. You encouraged me!!!!

DJan said...

It's wonderful to see you so happy and fulfilled, Sally. I too am glad we have met and that I've gotten to know you through blogging. I kind of like being a septuagenarian, too! :-)

Olga Hebert said...

Sally, your life is so rich and multi-layered and you have brought your full self to every moment of it.

Lin Floyd said...

writing helps you heal and celebrate your life. I turn 75 this year.

Jeanie said...

Ah yes, the time factor. It does go more quickly, doesn't it? Can it really be nearly April? I so understand what you mean about how many things change in these years. When I had several losses this spring, my heart grieved, but my brain said, "You'd better start getting used to it, because this is the start of that long, long journey that is filled with goodbye.

But I am so thrilled that you are celebrating, enjoying every single second of these days called life -- rich, fulfilled, honest, wise. A tough road sometimes but that's when we have to remember that celebration is indeed essential!

Jean said...

I will also turn 70 this year, Sally. I've put off thinking about it, but your post has assured me I'll survive it and continue on, loving each day. Wonderful photo of you with your lifelong friends.

Arkansas Patti said...

Ah to be seventy again:)) Seriously, it looks like you have this milestone nailed. To have kept your friends close and a playful relationship with your hubby which says wonders about you.
Keep enjoying. Each age does have advantages.

Linda Myers said...

Such a warm and loving post! And full of joy.

Betsy Adams said...

I love this post, Sally... Made me smile... Love the last Irish Saying... NEAT!!!

I never think much about age --other than the fact that I'm proud of my age and don't mind telling anyone and everyone how old I am... Afterall, I don't feel 72.. I even tell people that I'll be 73 in August (as if I'm proud of it).....

I have always been a kid at heart --but George brought me LOVE that I had never felt before. Our life together since 2001 makes me smile just thinking about it and talking about it. We are together 24/7--and wouldn't have it any other way... I don't ever want to think about losing him. In fact, I keep telling him that "I" am going FIRST.... ha

You are fantastic at 70... I'm proud of you.. I have never experienced the grief you have of losing a child. Cannot imagine... BUT--you have handled it well....

Love you bunches,
Betsy

Rose said...

So lovely, Sally! I think I may have to bookmark this page and read it again every time I feel a little blue about getting older. There are things I miss about being younger--like getting on my knees and being able to get right up again:) But you have reminded us all of all the blessings and wisdom that come with age. As my Grandma used to say, "It beats the alternative!" I love the happy ending of the love story that you and your husband share. A belated Happy Birthday!

Julie Hamers said...

Oh Sally, this is absolutely beautiful. It certainly made me cry, too. Gosh, I love you.

rosaria williams said...

A beautiful post, uplifting, supporting the rest of us on this journey. Thanks for sharing.

donna sivesind said...

Beautiful. As you well know I' m just a few days behind you in age. I feel so blessed that we have shared so many things together.

A Quiet Corner said...

Ahhh...something for me to look forward to because at 70, my hubby says.."he's old." It's all in the mind and I'm glad yours is on track!...:)JP

Lori Ann said...

I have had this sitting open for me to read for quite some time! I turn 53 this year and I feel the same as you about aging. Anthony and I talked about how much fun you two were having in Florida and I told him that was us. Simply enjoying life. There are so many who can keep learning from you!

Perpetua said...

A lovely reflection on the joys and sorrows of your 70 years so far, Sally. I'm a year behind you and I think I'd better start pondering ready for that big birthday next year. May you celebrate many more happy birthdays.

Relyn Lawson said...

My wishes are late, but no less sincere. Happy, happy birthday, my bloggy friend. May you be blessed!