For the past month I have been trying out my new age: the very round number of 70. I am glad to report that thus far I see little difference between being 69 or 70. My shoulder is still stiff, my knees no creakier than usual. And I have noticed no appreciable increase in the occurrence of senior moments.
Of course, there is no going back. The old “time marches on” principle is at work here. Clearly, I will never be 69 again. Moreover, I will be 70 for 365 whole days until another new year of life shows up. I did not really dread this milepost, but the fact that I am the first of my siblings to arrive here gives me pause. And my sister continues to assure me that age is only a number.
I spent most of the run-up to 70 contemplating and reviewing my several decades on this planet. Unbelievably, the most enlightening perspective I encountered came from, of all people, George Carlin.
It may be surprising that I am an unabashed fan of the late comedian and his standup routines – well, at least some of them. When he chose to be vulgar, I ignored him, which is why I never really knew which seven words could not be said on television until I saw the list in Wikipedia a few weeks ago!
Carlin’s way with non-vulgar words, however, always appealed to my weird sense of humor, as when he compared the ruggedness of football to the, well, nonruggedness of baseball: in football they blitz, in baseball they sacrifice. Or, in football they wear helmets, in baseball they wear caps. That whole routine always cracked me up.
But it was his take on aging that recently bounced around in my head, even as my sister tried to amass enough candles to celebrate my big day accurately. According to Carlin: we become 20, we turn 30, we push 40, we reach 50, we make it to 60, we hit 70.
So, when I did my own “hitting” last month, I also started thinking about my becoming and my turning and my pushing and my reaching and my making it – and what it has all meant.
When I reached 20 such a long time ago, I was so very different from the little kid I was when double digits first became part of my equation. My child-adolescent-young adult-self became legal, albeit at a different age from today’s young people. I could drink low beer when I graduated from high school but could not vote until shortly before I graduated from college.
But my 20’s were all about finishing my education and starting my career. Many of my contemporaries also married and began having children, but I spent scads of time at school. All of us were learning the ropes of adulthood: paying bills, running households, making mistakes on the way to becoming real grownups.
Although my vanity blinked at turning 30, I and many of my co-Boomers spent our third decade barreling through our careers full blast. We were established enough to realize – or accept – the direction we were heading. And we kept being surprised about how fast the kids around us were growing up.
I think many of us were shocked to push the big 4-0, but the dawn of a fourth decade was nonetheless upon us. We had been around long enough to begin filling leadership roles in various aspects of our lives. More than occasionally, it occurred to us that there was life after career – and grandparenthood, too.
Reaching 50 was sobering in so many ways. In my own case, a couple of years into this new age the calendar turned over to a brand-new century. Shortly thereafter, terrorists in commercial jets ushered a brand-new reality into our lives. And we realized our parents were growing older and our children were grown up. Occasional glimpses ahead into our own golden years startled us.
Making it to 60 brought much of life into focus. Retirement came for some, Social Security for many. Sadly, we were losing our parents – and had to adjust to seeing our own ages listed in the obituaries. Slowing down slowly sneaked up on us: our bodies, to be sure, and also our daily schedules. But many of us found joy in crossing off bucket list items and spoiling little ones of other generations.
And now, as an older Boomer, I have hit 70. Somehow the age is not really as old as I thought it was when my grandparents were my current age. A couple of my nephews are pushing 40 this year, and one of my great-nephews will soon graduate from high school. The end of my life is now a foreseeable event, although the number of years until then is not. But there are still so many books to read, skills to perfect, ideas to discover that I am almost relishing all the years of my seventh decade.
When it is all said and done, I now understand that life is all about age – and at the same time not at all about age. So, now that I have survived all the becoming and turning and pushing and reaching and making it and hitting, it will be on my birthday, ten years into the future, that I will CELEBRATE 80. I can’t wait!
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.