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Hitting 80 no big deal anymore

It was June of 1939. It was my grandmother’s birthday. I was nearly four years old and my sister would be nine years old soon. I was out playing and accumulating the usual dirt when a Warren Tribune Chronicle photographer with a huge flash camera arrived at our house on York Avenue. Mom wasn’t home. The photographer said he was there because my grandmother was turning 80 and he wanted to take her picture for the newspaper.

Grandma slipped on her Sunday best green velvet dress. My sister hurriedly dressed me (over the dirt) in my good short-panted jumper and she put on a print dress. It was a good thing Mom wasn’t there to spit on her hanky and clean off my face. The photographer had us pose on each side of Grandma who seated herself on a wicker chair on the front porch. Can you believe it? The three of us appeared on the front page of the evening paper. Back in 1939, it was a big deal to turn 80.

Okay, let’s fast forward 76 years to the present. I’ll be 80 in a couple of weeks, and I’m not really expecting a Tribune photographer to come to my house to take a picture of me with my grandkids. Besides, two of my grandkids live in California, and two more live in China. I think this tells me at least two things: 1) It’s not such a big deal nowadays to reach the age of 80; and 2) my kids and grandkids are pretty widely dispersed due to the realities of economics and job opportunities. If I want a photo of myself with my grandkids I’d have to fly either to California or China.

So what is going to happen to an 80 year old in the not-so-distant future? My California son suggests that I take up residence at the Silverado Orchards retirement community near his home. The trouble is, he gets transferred to other locales in his job from time to time, so the potential for me to be left high and dry in a strange state in a strange community with most of my friends and relatives back in Ohio gives me the heebie-jeebies.

My China son says I could move there, and have a live-in woman who would take care of me. Hmm. Interesting. Is this the Chinese version of Comfort Keepers? By the way, am I repeating myself?

Beginning my ninth decade doesn’t seem so intimidating, although some physicians say that old age is a disease itself, and it must be treated as a disease. Speaking of physicians, when I showed my general practitioner my life-time list of surgeries and illnesses, he said that all these treatments and surgeries must have sent several doctors’ kids through college. It was funny the first time, but when another doctor of mine saw the same list, he said the same thing. Apparently, doctors all have the same set of jokes, just like the jokes in grade school tend to stay in the same grades throughout time.

Physical infirmities slowly creep up. Getting down on the floor to get something is a real task, and easy chairs either are set lower or have deeper cushions than before. Sometimes it takes two or three tries to get up out of one. Incidentally, did I already say that?

Driving isn’t a problem. I’m just as good as I ever was, although other drivers seem to make more dumb mistakes than they used to.

My hearing is still quite good, but most people mumble and don’t speak loudly or clearly enough now. The TV stations aren’t broadcasting with as much volume as they used to. Hearing aids aren’t much use. They’re a nuisance and they’re such a pain to put on.

See? Turning 80 isn’t a big deal anymore. I’m just the same as I was decades ago. If only people drove better and spoke more clearly, life at 80 would be a lot simpler. Did I say “big deal” too much?

Now, where’s that Tribune photographer?

columns@tribtoday.com