In the Suburbs: Big birthday cause for small celebration
Published 6:36 am, Sunday, August 10, 2014
I woke up this morning, and I was 70! How did six decades to fly by?
I don't feel like some doddering 70-year-old, and I've been told by enough ego strokers that I don't look it either. But the handwriting is on the wall, and it's time to have some real fun with the rest of my life.
Earlier this week, I stopped by my new favorite diner near the house we recently moved into -- Famous '50s Diner -- and got a wake-up call. While the Elvis music and other '50s hits were playing, I looked around. The place was crawling with retirees.
At one table were four guys I took for regulars -- arguing loudly, I'll bet, about the same things they've been discussing for years. At the counter were six people quietly discussing their shopping lists and golf plans. Other folks were with caregivers and folded walkers. Was I next? No, thanks!
I had texts and emails to answer on my phone, and the last thing I was thinking about was retirement. Besides, I can't afford it, and I have too much to do. For me, 70 will be the new 50, and I'm so glad to be busy.
I decided to make this birthday week one of being grateful for family, good friends, good health and good food. Seventy is just a number.
Why not? We're no longer homeowners. My wife and I are starting a new chapter in our lives in a smaller house. I'm down 15 pounds -- thinnest I've been in 20 years -- thanks to Weight Watchers, and my cardiologist was thrilled.
Tonight, we'll be enjoying dinner at the Gelston House in East Haddam and "Fiddler on the Roof" just across the street at the Goodspeed Opera House -- alone. I can't wait. As much as we love family, especially our kids (who ironically are in my hometown of Chicago this week), it will be nice to just be a couple.
A decade ago, when I hit the big six-oh, my family -- especially my late mom, who loved to orchestrate parties -- decided that everyone should descend on Connecticut to celebrate. Of course, she never consulted me or my wife, who loves family but not in large doses.
It was a three-ring circus of eating and entertaining for the entire weekend. Between runs to the airport, nonstop conversation and people under foot, we were absolutely drained by Sunday night. The best part of the weekend was a sumptuous brunch where our closest friends joined us, providing some respite from just family.
After that weekend, I vowed that nothing like that would happen again. But mom did it again for my 65th. When she first proposed it on the phone in June 2009, I just asked her what the big deal was. Of course, I lost.
After those events, I swore there would be no more extravaganzas. What I didn't bank on was the fact that my soon-to-be 94-year-old dad would take over where mom left off. He left me a voicemail in mid-July, and announced that he and his 93-year-old girlfriend, Bernice, were planning to join us for my 70th. He wondered who was coming to help celebrate.
I was shocked. I called him one morning and politely explained that we were up to our eyeballs in boxes after our "near-death move." I said I hadn't even been thinking about my birthday, and the last thing I needed was family descending on us. I suggested that he and Bernice consider a visit in early fall so we can really show off the new house. He liked that idea.
I knew he meant well. He just said he'd wait for his cue from us and to just send the new address so he could mail out the check.
Then my aunt called to invite us to her 85th in Chicago on Sept. 6. We gave her a tentative "yes" until my brother from D.C. called to say that he and his wife had gotten four great seats for the Carole King musical "Beautiful" in Manhattan for Sept. 6.
My aunt, whom I adore, completely understood.
This will definitely be the best milestone birthday ever -- just my wife and me. So let the celebrating begin. Time's a wasting and I have so many things left on my bucket list.
Steven Gaynes "In the Suburbs" appears each Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.