Sunday, February 28, 2016

"That's Life"

That's Life

When I was really young I don't remember wishing I was any particular age. Mostly I was interested in the upcoming holidays, like Christmas, maybe Easter, Halloween, and of course my birthday.
(I don't remember when or why my mother started making me coconut cakes for my birthday, which really was a white cake with white icing covered with shredded coconut.)

But when I was probably twelve or thirteen, I knew that after I turned fourteen, I could take the written test, and if I passed it, I could get my Florida Learner's Permit to drive. Which I did.

But it had a couple of restrictions – a licensed driver over 18 (or 21) had to be in the front seat at all times when I was driving, and no night driving. Of course, this was to allow me (and others) to learn to drive. Since my dad was always working, my mother was the one who was with me as I learned to drive, and to parallel park (a requirement on the driving test).

Of course, then my next age-to-be goal was to turn 16 so I could take the driving test.
(I remember in high school that we (students) had to take the written test for our Operator's License in the library  in order to take Driver's Ed, which was supposed to lower our insurance premiums.)
And less than a month after I turned 16, my dad took me to take the driving test.
The most number of points (demerits) you could get and still pass the test was 20. I got 21, so I failed it. I took the test in our '56 Chevy Bel Air, and the speedometer was stuck at 20 mph, so Dad thought maybe one reason was that the tester thought I was going too slow. I don't remember how I did on the parallel parking, but I guess I did okay. A month or so later, Dad took me back and this time I passed with 18 points.

The next age I looked forward to being was 18. I would have graduated from high school, I was kinda / sorta an adult, and (unfortunately) I was eligible to be drafted (the Viet Nam war was going on at the time). Instead of waiting to be drafted, I joined the Air Force when I was 17 (with both parents' signatures).

And of course, next I looked forward to turning 21, when I could legally buy and drink alcoholic beverages, and I could vote.
(In 1967, the voting age was 21. But in 1971, the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age to 18. And because so many returning Viet Nam vets were under 21, and the drinking age on military bases was 18, there was the push to lower the age of drinking to 18. So in 1972, it was. But because so many students in high school were 18, and they were buying alcohol and bringing it into the schools, and because there were so many teenage driving fatalities, the drinking age was changed back to 21 in the mid 1980s. Plus the Viet Nam war was over and there were no more under-21 soldiers coming back.)
Then the next age I wanted to be was 25 - my car insurance would go down. I suppose the insurance companies thought that by the time you turned 25, you were a more responsible driver.

I doubt if I wanted to be 30, because I remember thinking that, well, 30 was THIRTY!
(As those of you who are still under 30 will probably agree. And maybe some of you may remember the hippies' mantra from the '70s - “Don't trust anyone over thirty.”)
So I decided that 25 was a good age to be.

When I hit 35, and looking back, I decided that 30 wasn't so bad. I was pretty responsible, I had a decent job, and I was making enough money to live comfortably. So that was the age I would want to be.

And when turned 40, I didn't remember much, if anything, about being 30, but I remembered when I was 35 I thought it was good age, so 30 it was.

And ditto for 45, 50 and 55. But when I hit 60, I realized that 70 was just around the corner. And 70 is OLD! So ANY younger age would have been a good one to be.

However, when I was 62, and I was hearing about Social Security retirement, I couldn't wait to turn 66 so I could earn a full week's paycheck AND collect my full retirement with no penalty. Woo Hoo!

But 70 is not so far away anymore.

My health, for the most part, is still pretty good. But colds that I used to be able to kick in a week or so, now seem to last 3 or 4 weeks. And they have started developing into more serious ailments than just head congestion or coughing. But I can still work all day without feeling too tired. Of course, there are those aches and pains I didn't used to have. And there are things I used to do that are harder now, or especially hard to do (just as I remember hearing Dad complain about getting older and not being able to do the things he used to be able to do).

But looking ahead to 75, 80, 85, and older, I can't help but recall watching my parents as they aged and their health problems got worse.

And that is the blessing, and the curse, of modern medicine. We are all living longer (as a whole), but as we get older, it means that our quality of life will not be what we would like it to be. In fact, you can be certain it won't be much fun at all!

But, as you know: “That's life.”