Forty Times Two

Twenty times two, thirty times two, and forty times two! Significant numbers only if related to our birthdays. Today’s population values a person’s numerical age when driving, voting, running for public office, job hunting or applying for Medicare. Yet youth is coveted. It is featured in TV ads promoting skin care, cosmetics, indoor/outdoor activities, food choices and even fashion apparel. Older people past their prime are generally deemed less important than they once were. Their opinions are consistently considered antiquated, “square” or boring. After all, what do they know! A lot, in case you had not guessed. But not as much as we hope we will know before we leave this earth.

Shall I tell you about turning 8-0? Hang on, it is not all bad! A few weeks ago I had THAT momentous birthday. When my North Carolina daughter-in-law queried last November how we were planning to celebrate, I was a blank. I knew that I wanted as many as possible of our far-flung family to congregate. I knew that I wanted them to have a chance to be together, to enjoy each other and to meet many of our favorite friends. I wanted to do something “different” than the usual gathering of the clan. And I sure as heck didn’t want to wait for a funeral to be the occasion that attracts precious loved ones.

What would tweak the attention of family and friends of ALL ages? The answer revealed itself early one morning. “I know,” I told John shortly after opening my eyes. “Let’s have a Fifties Sock Hop, with a DJ, poodle skirts, balloons, hula hoops, hamburgers, fries, milkshakes, disco balls hanging from the ceiling…plus “adult beverages!” Let’s create an opportunity for our chicks living in four different cities to be with each other…a chance for us to meld the generations by a common theme of FUN.” “What?” asked John, who wondered if I had lost a marble or two.

Being married to me for sixty plus years, my sweet husband knew my mind was set. He had offered his idea that we go to NYC to see a Broadway show or two. It fell flat. A February birthday is not the best month to head north. (Why didn’t my parents realize that before having me?) Gradually, he agreed, and soon I heard him telling folks that “Joy wants a Sock Hop when she turns 80!” Even as he shook his head in amused disbelief, his eyes twinkled. We were on our way. We had the perfect venue at his golf club, and even the staff was delighted to help plan the party.  Admittedly no one had ever suggested such an outlandish theme! Bobby sox instead of golf apparel! 

Everything came together. I wrote a fun jingle for the invitation: our party planners did a stunning job. The club was awash with balloons, checkered dance floor, a DJ whose music reflected the Fifties, Sixties, etc. The spirit was infectious…guests danced the Twist, jitterbug and Charleston. John was a hoot-of-a-host in his John Travolta wig, dark glasses, LL bean jeans and faux leather jacket. My purple poodle skirt twirled away, and the event turned out to be one of the happiest, most memorable evenings of my entire life.

 All four of our adult children came; three spouses, five of our nine grandchildren, my 86 year-old sister (and only sibling) flew in from Milwaukee as did her two stateside sons….one from San Francisco and the other from Chicago. To complete the list, over fifty local friends also attended. My “cup runneth over.”

Turning 80 is a huge blessing. However, to be sure, it is a milestone also marked by profound losses…ones that are not frequently experienced by people turning forty, fifty or sixty. Since Christmas John and I have lost four very dear friends. Suddenly, close female friends of mine are widows. I look at their faces, try to imagine their pain, and thank the good Lord for each good day that I share with my husband.

 If we pause to ponder, living in a retirement community is an omnipresent reminder that the clock is ticking. Doubtless, this is the primary reason why John and I mostly choose to bring our dinners back to our comfy cottage, thus avoiding the sight of so many residents entering the dining room on walkers. When we do eat in The Big House, however, we are delighted to embrace the vibrancy of those who have experienced fascinating adventures, life styles and accomplishments. We are aware we have so much yet to learn. We know that we are sharing a time of life that does enrich and nourish us. We know we did the right thing to move here. We are happy to have the downsizing behind us. But we joyfully celebrate each day we have together. We no longer take good health and well-being for granted. Deep in my bones, I know that Forty Times Two is a wonderfully high-class problem!

Joy Nevin is the author of Joy of Retirement – Live, Love, and Learn. Click to buy on Amazon.