It started on my 50th birthday. There I was minding my own business, teaching every day, still raising our boys, working after school hours to make extra money for the family. Who knew a trip to the mailbox that day would be the beginning of a new chapter. Unassumingly, I reached into the box to retrieve the mail as I do nearly every afternoon to see the barrage of bills, junk mail, a couple papers, periodicals and the like. Then I see it. A distinctively red and white envelope with the initials AARP! What the heck? Obviously it was in the wrong box and intended for one of our elderly neighbors. But upon further examination it hit me like a rock thrown at my head on the playground---it had my name on it. I had become a “senior.”
I’ve never thought much about age. Both my parents worked hard enjoying good lives and health up until the end. They were still farming, moving equipment, hauling cattle, mowing their yard and pretty much doing their own thing until their early 80’s. I guess I assumed this decline into the senior life would start much later, yet AARP was happy to remind me I now fit into the defined “box” of being called a senior. How did they know it was my 50th birthday anyway?
Well I quickly discarded the letter and pretended like it never happened. I went to dinner with my family and celebrated a half-century of life with hopefully another half century ahead. Still… that letter lingered in the back of my mind. I tried to forget it, but when I least expected that thought surfaced. Sort of like the memory of “that” blind date in college or the dream about sitting at your desk at school wearing no pants. This wasn’t a dream. I was becoming a senior.
My transition into this new chapter of life has been subtle. The girl at McDonald’s giving me a “senior” coffee when I never requested it was the first poke in the eye. How could I be so offended by an 18 year old girl with a nose piercing and pink hair?
Then while my wife and I were eating out once, I heard our server speaking to other servers behind their divider stating, “my table is the one with the older couple.” After a quick scan of the dining area and realizing we were the only couple seated it hit me once again. We were the older couple. While I am normally generous with our wait staff, I will admit my disgust was reflected in her tip. Other little issues have seemed to pop up along the way too. Even though I start my day early and usually work late I have found I am really tired when I come into the house at the end of the day. I can’t stand on and work off of ladders for long periods of time as my knees and ankles begin to ache. And the grand finale this week was I made a left hand turn in front of another vehicle and forgot to put on my signal. (A fact that both my boys were happy to remind me of at the time.)
Yesterday brought home this point once again. I started early. Helped the boys on a project. Mowed lawns, hauled trash for a job, used my weed eater for an extended period of time, cleaned the pool, met with a tenant, returned a couple of phone calls, etc. etc. etc. It was just a long day. At nine o’clock I remembered I had yet to take our dumpster to the road for trash pick up on Thursday. We never forget trash day. Otherwise our home and property looks like an episode of Hoarders. Our home is about 400 feet from the road. I’ve walked it down for all the years we have had trash service. Yet last night I was feeling that “senior” moment. My legs were tired. I was hot and dirty and was looking for the easy way out. So thinking I would take the easy way I decided to jump on my Dixie Chopper and just pull the dumpster to the road. American ingenuity soon went to the dogs. I hadn’t traveled ten feet before my dumpster (more likely my arm) twisted and spilled the dumpster in the drive. Trash, garbage, food scraps, pieces of old lumber, nails, screws and assortment of other smelly stuff came tumbling out. Frustrated, I gathered it all up with a flashlight, shovel and magnet. All the trash was neatly reassembled, bagged and tied. Then I proceeded to walk the dumpster to the road as I should have done in the first place. As I walked back up the hill in the dark, dirty, sweating, swearing and now smelling pretty funky too from handling trash the reality of becoming a senior hit me once again. Maybe, just maybe, we should think about moving at some point. And then my light bulb moment….and that’s why old people move into condos!