Birthdays mark the passage of time, and with each celebration of my friends, I wonder why do we bother with numbers? It seems to mean less and less. This weekend marked one such celebration when I realized I was surrounded by vital, thriving, funny, and loving women and men who were all hurtling toward seventy–some had even surpassed that milestone.
The image of seventy in my youth meant something different than it does today as I’m looking down the barrel at it. It seems unimaginable that the majority of my friends are now over sixty, and in a few short months, I will wake up in bed next to a seventy-year-old man! Not one of those folks fit into that former image of what I imagined life at seventy would look like.
Then it meant closing in on an ending. Today, it means starting something new or doing something just because we can. It means saying whatever pops in our head and being allowed, in most cases, to do it without censorship.
Here’s a sampling of some of the folks at the party yesterday.
The birthday girl turned sixty-nine yesterday. She was late to the party because she’d just biked thirty miles earlier in the day and rushed home to shower before arriving. Last month, we hiked six miles with her over rough terrain in south Georgia when we visited an elephant refuge. Last week she visited the Smoky Mountains and hiked miles along the Appalachian Trail. Besides that, she laughs often.
Another friend will turn seventy in August. She plans to celebrate by taking a month to drive Route 66 from Chicago to LA as a way to celebrate her life and experience new and exciting places. She is active in the community and travels as much as she can.
The over seventy hostess will turn seventy-five this summer, and she was busy planning how she would celebrate. She just came back from a tour of Italy and travels extensively with friends and family. She gardens and works out at the gym nearly every day.
My husband will turn seventy in October. He’s outside right now building a fence in our backyard. The spring garden is planted, and next month he’ll go to our cabin in the mountains and put in the summer garden. We kayaked last weekend, and each morning, we walk around our neighborhood. He also golfs and does all the heavy lifting around the house. And he still enjoys acting like a kid. Yesterday, it was making some letters on his shirt fold over so it displayed the word, “sex.” The only one at the party who noticed was the birthday girl, and she laughed at his silliness. I rolled my eyes, but secretly was proud of him for having fun.
Another woman I met for the first time yesterday, but I hope to see her again soon. She delighted me. On her seventieth birthday, she took her grandsons to the Grand Canyon. Recently, she won first place in the bench press in the Senior Olympics here in town. She had us in stitches about her travels and life as a septuagenarian.
Not only are my friends active, they are fun. We have the best stories to tell–decades worth. And as we age, I swear we become even funnier with each telling. Maybe it’s because as some memories fade, we’re no longer afraid to embellish to make the stories memorable for someone else. Who cares? It’s the essence of an experience that really matters in the end.
I know too many “kids” in their thirties and forties who seem older than my friends and me. They are bogged down with life and worry about every little detail. Will it rain? Is that road too narrow? How much do I weigh? When will we earn enough? I suppose I might have been that way at one time when there were too many responsibilities and too many people depended on me getting things done and getting them done correctly.
So what’s in a number? Very little these days.
By the way, I turn sixty-five in December, which means I was the baby at this party.