Monday, May 17, 2010

Jane Fishman: Birthdays Keep Rolling Along

Jane Fishman: Over 60 and still living

Birthdays keep rolling along

By Jane Fishman

I gotta admit it. Turning 40 was a blast. A real turning point. I remember thinking, "I'm 40 and I'm still standing and the world keeps turning. Not bad."

I asked for so little back then.

Who could forget 30? I was living in Chicago and going to a neighborhood carnival in Lincoln Park.

It was an unusually hot May Day. When everyone else wanted to go on the Tilt-a-Whirl, a ride that always made me dizzy and crazy, I came up with, "I'm 30. I no longer have to do anything I don't want to do."

Ever since then, that has become my mantra.

Moving into 50 was pretty smooth, too. Another decade. But this one represented a half-century. Very cool, no?

After that, the numbers and associations get sketchy.

Fifty-two stood for 52 Pick-Up.

Fifty-five represented double numbers, which to me is always lucky, because - until the turn of the century when some esoteric mathematical formula kicked in - each of my double-number birthdays fell on a double-number year: 55 in 99, 44 in 88, 33 in 77.

Fifty-seven became Heinz 57, named by Mr. Heinz because five was his lucky number and seven his wife's, which means it could just as easily have been Heinz 75.

Another decade

Then came 60 and a little deja-vu. Yet another decade, except this one came with a frequently mentioned maxim. Sixty, I was to hear repeatedly, is the new 50. Move over, all you new 50-year-olds.

Sixty-two meant Social Security. (Sorry again to those who come behind me; I'll try to leave some funds for you).

At 64, I hummed "When I'm Sixty-Four" all day.

At 65, I entered the arcane and esoteric world of Medicare diagnostic codes, which are two-letter words that basically start with "N" and end with "O."

For instance, according to Medicare, a person can only have one pap smear every two years.

"Well, how much does it cost if I want to pay for it?" I asked my doctor's receptionist. She had no idea. No one had ever asked.

Which brings us up to 66, another double-digit year, reminiscent of Phillips 66.

It's also the direct international dialing code from Thailand. But my personal favorite association for this birthday is Route 66 ("Get your kicks on Route 66").

I'm considering changing the ring tone on my phone. But which version to use, Chuck Berry or the Rolling Stones?

A moot question since I have never changed my ring tone. I am famous for pushing the wrong button on the remote control and turning the television screen to snow. For this reason alone I will never live by myself - not if I ever want to watch the final day of a golf tournament or some nature show.

The other day I unearthed one of those giant boom boxes, the kind guys used to walk around with on their shoulders. I found all my old cassettes. What a joy. What a pleasure. One that I can operate. You push play, it plays. When it clicks, you push eject and turn it over. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

Another possible association for this birthday is Sweet 66. It may not have a ring tone but it does have a nice ring to it, even if no one gave me a charm bracelet or a string of pearls - both of which I got for my Sweet 16 birthday and still have, somewhere, probably hiding with my grandfather's Masonic ring, also lost.

Live in the moment or plan for the future?

Birthdays. They just keep rolling along. Although this time I am considering staying with 66 for the next four years. Or maybe eight.

Then again, I'm liking the idea of saying I'm 76 so then people can say, "Wow, you look really good for 76."

I'm hoping for a little break in the next decade or so. I'm remembering what cartoonist/comedian Nicole Hollander said in her "Tales of Graceful Living from the Planet Denial.''

"I am sure that by the time I'm ready for assisted living, we will have a more enlightened attitude toward dying and Craigslist will offer heroin for barter or sale."

Later on, she writes, "Before visiting the health food store, I go to the bank and take out a home equity loan. Then, fortified with sufficient cash, I enter the store, in a spirit of reverence and suspension of disbelief, to pick up herbs to cure what ails me."

Works for me, as long as we still have the home equity loan option.

So far I haven't made any radical changes in my life except for choosing the expensive haircut over plastic surgery. Although, I am in the hunt for the Medicare code for drooping eyelids.

But I still have questions, every day. Do I save or do I spend? Do I go easy and prepare for 20 more good years or go crazy and live each day like a madwoman? Live in the moment or plan for the future?

The bad news about birthdays rolling around is the rolling. It's become accelerated, moving from a slightly hilly plane to one with circuitous mountain paths. The good news is we're still having birthdays.

As a 6-year-old announced when we were gardening together and someone brought up the subject of grandparents: "My grandmother is 60 and she's thin and she's still alive."

Still alive. Well, OK, then. I'm down with that.


Syd said...

What a great attitude. I have to say that I would just as soon keep having birthdays rather than the alternative. It would be nice some days to start over again knowing what I know now.

Ms. Moon said...

I just adore Jane Fishman. She rocks my world and gives me great hope.

Jeannie said...

She writes not like a 66 year old. Some people just sound old huh?

Lisa said...

I'm 42 this year and don't like that my butt got wider and my front got rounder. Getting older has always been a good thing for me and its nice to see how others are doing it also : )

Maggie May said...

the kid quote just made my day.

Sarcastic Bastard said...

I hear you. I'm 44. I hate the physical changes. Thanks for reading and commenting. Please come back often.



I loved that quote, too. Cracked me up.



Petit fleur said...

Cute read. I hope my humor holds out like hers.

I heard recently that Harvey Keitel had his 71st birthday... That blew my mind!