February 3, 2005
The Good, the Bad and the Confusing
I am a senior citizen. I'm 82, look 65 and feel like 40. It is a very confusing time of life. People assume that you are over the hill. You know that you are still vital and have the ability to contribute to society.
At the age of 50, I classified myself as lower-middle age. As the years rushed by, I accepted middle, middle-age and then upper-middle age.
At 82, I can no longer fool myself with artificial classifications. I am old. I am a senior citizen. So what?
Senior citizenship is not necessarily bad. Nice people rise to give you their seats on buses and in public places. I always refuse the seat but will accept it for my more fragile wife.
Theaters offer me a discount on tickets. Financially, I don't need a discount, but I gladly accept it. There are some small feelings of guilt as I observe younger, and perhaps poorer, couples paying full price.
Guilt also appears for me in restaurants as I timidly display my two-for-one coupon. The guilt is not deeply seated.
My family loves to chide me about my preference for restaurants that offer these coupons. I just can't escape my memories of childhood poverty. Who ate at restaurants in Chicago's West Side ghetto?
Joining other seniors at a restaurant can be a harrowing experience. There are always a few seniors who lag way behind the cute gal leading us to our seats. Some seniors reject seats that face a wall. Others in the same party demand a window seat. Of course, the restaurant temperature is too cold or too hot.
Some seniors have as much difficulty deciding what to eat as Eisenhower had deciding when to land at Normandy. We always have food left over to take home. We mark the cartons to be sure we take home our own leftovers.
You do not want to be present when the owner comes around at the end of the meal to declare our coupons invalid. We seniors are confident. We have seen too much of life to give up without a fight. Meek and mild we are not.
There is a sad aspect to dining with a senior who has lost a spouse. You want to pay their bill as a gesture of love. They insist on paying their fair share. You have to accept that pride demands that they pay for what they ate. Sometimes you adjust their share so they pay less than normal. They rarely know what you have done.
Dining brings up cruising. On a recent cruise, they asked what couple had been married the longest. The winning couple was to get a bottle of champagne.
The wife and I won with our 58 years. The champagne we gave away. But winning brought up many wistful memories.
I am very happily married. Yet I can't explain where the years went. What happened to the skinny kid who was discharged from the Army on March 1 of 1946 and married two days later on March 3? Was it 58 years since we had that fabulous wedding attended by 10 people? How could it be that we have a daughter who is 55 years old?
You cannot spend time and energy wondering where the years went. They are finished.
Seniors must concentrate on now. Enjoy life now. Do what you can within your abilities. Life is precious and good. Tomorrow will come at its own speed.