TCS: Thoughts for a 70th Birthday

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The years between 50 and 70 are the hardest.
You are always being asked to do things, and yet
you are not decrepit enough to turn them down.”

– T.S. Eliot


Why does 70 sound so much older than 69?

It is that numbers ending in zero or five are used as benchmarks:

  • “the big 3-0”
  • “mid-life begins at 40”
  • “50th anniversary”
  • “75 years young”

Or is 69 just the absolute last year we can kid ourselves we’re still “middle-aged”?

Tomorrow I will be 70.

The Paul Simon song “Old Friends” was recorded for the Simon and Garfunkel Bookends album in 1968. Paul Simon was 26 years old. I think he had to be close to someone who was old to write that song then. When I first heard it, I immediately thought of my grandfather, who had died a few years earlier, just five days before Christmas, one of the first and biggest losses in my life.

He was born just after midnight on the first day of January, so our birthdays were close together, and we shared some of the same traits. But his interest in astrology was not one of them. He had a chart done for each of his grandchildren after we were born, and mine was a pretty wildly inaccurate description of me. While I do have a “strong sense of responsibility,” I never “loved to help my mother around the house.” The glittering generalities might apply, but the more specific extrapolations were almost all dead wrong. Even as a kid, I had a pretty accurate “bullshit meter.”

What he did gift to me was a love of stories. Nobody told them better than Papa, which is what everybody in the family called him. They were mostly tall tales, either scary or with a funny punchline, and he did all the voices and sound effects. Whenever the family gathered, none of us kids wanted to watch TV if Papa would tell us stories. I might not buy into astrology, but Papa caught me hook, line and sinker on every one of his fantastical tales.

Even now, I can hear his howl of the “Lobo Wolf” which featured in several of his scary stories, and it still gives me chills.

We wrote letters to each other, not often, but I don’t think the other grandkids did, except “thank you for the . . .” I still have a couple of his letters, the last one from the month before he died, talking about how much he was looking forward to the family all being together at Christmas. I really wish he could have been there.

Tomorrow, I’ll be older than he was on his last birthday, and that will be terribly strange.



About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for over 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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2 Responses to TCS: Thoughts for a 70th Birthday

  1. Terry Welshans says:

    I feel your pain. I passed that threshold a few years ago and have given up counting. I am stuck in the 60s, a time that I really enjoyed the most. The biggest change now is that I am attending way too many funerals. The good news, so far, is that none of them are mine.

    • wordcloud9 says:

      Thanks Terry –
      I realized in my 50s that one of the ways women discover they are getting old is that their “little black dress” isn’t a party dress now, but something suitable to wear to the increasing number of funerals they have to attend.

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