Age, goes an old (of course) saying, is just a number. As a geezer who flunked math in school and now has the checkbook to prove it, I believe this adage for a number of reasons. I’m not sure how many because I am, you know, bad at math.
At any rate, the whole thing recently dawned on me, even though it wasn’t dawn, when my older daughter, Katie, turned 40.
When I reached that age, 26 (thank you, calculator!) years ago, I was reminded of another adage: Life begins at 40.
If that’s true, I realized, I had just wasted 39 years.
I also realized that milestones are like kidney stones: They’re hard to pass, but at least after you pass a kidney stone, you feel better.
I say this from hard experience because I have had about half a dozen of the boulder-like calcium compounds. Unfortunately, they still don’t outnumber the rocks in my head.
But reaching birthdays ending in zero has never bothered me. That’s because I am a baby boomer, a member of the generation that used to say, “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” Now that we are at least twice that age, we have developed a mathematical formula that would have earned all of us failing grades in school.
Here it is: 60 is the new 50. Or, even better, 60 is the new 40.
I don’t know if this makes Katie feel better (I doubt it), but it does wonders for me, except for one thing:
If I insisted I was 40, not only would I be the same age as my daughter, which would entail flunking both biology and algebra, but I’d have to unretire and go back to work. Even I’m not that stupid.
To any baby boomer who worries about those accumulating birthdays, I would tell you that this is the best time of life. Not only can you still do everything you have always done, but if there is something you don’t want to do, you can pull the age card.
“I don’t think I should be lugging furniture anymore,” you might say to anyone who is younger, which these days includes almost everyone.
“I don’t think I should be shoveling snow anymore,” you might say to no one in particular, because no one in particular will listen to you.
What you should say is: “I do think I should be lying in a hammock with a beer.”
This seldom works on spouses who not only are the same age but have a whole list of chores, errands and household projects for you to do.
There are two ways around this:
(a) Misplace the list. “I’m old,” you can then say. “What did you expect?”
(b) Do the chores so badly (“You mean I can’t use toilet bowl cleaner to wash the dishes?”) that you will never be asked to do them again.
The most difficult part about getting older is putting up with candle jokes. Like:
“What are you going to light them with, a flamethrower?”
“You’ll have to call the fire department to put them all out!”
“What’s the difference between you and your birthday cake? Answer: You’re not so hot anymore.”
Still, I am encouraged by the fact that longevity runs in my family. My mother, Rosina, is 95 and is sharper than I am. I admit that this isn’t such a great accomplishment because the same could be said for bathroom sponges. But my mom has grown old gracefully, as well as gratefully, with a positive outlook and a fabulous sense of humor.
I wouldn’t be surprised if she reaches 100. We will, of course, invite the fire department to the birthday party.
— Jerry Zezima
Jerry Zezima writes a humor column for Hearst Connecticut Media Group, which includes his hometown paper, the Stamford Advocate. His column is distributed by Tribune News Service of Chicago and has run in newspapers nationwide and abroad. He is also the author of four books, Leave It to Boomer, The Empty Nest Chronicles, Grandfather Knows Best and Nini and Poppie’s Excellent Adventures, all of which are “crimes against literature.” He has won seven awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists for his humorous writing.