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Another Day in the Country

Long live octogenarians

© Another Day in the Country

The word octogenarian is so formidable, and so seldom used, that it took me four tries to get it spelled right.

By the time you find yourself at 80, you know that you are an extremely lucky soul to have lived so long.

There were so many things that could have spelled the end for the average octogenarian — like the time when you were learning to drive and crossed the railroad tracks with poor visibility on the other side, and almost ran head on into another vehicle. 

Or the time you stepped out into a street and someone turning the corner barely missed you and blissfully ignorant drove right on by. 

There are a lot of near misses in life — some we know about, some we don’t. But here we still are.

I didn’t die during the Asian flu epidemic, nor did I get polio while it was still running rampant. I managed to survive measles, mumps, whooping cough, and childbirth, which back in the day took many women’s lives.

For anyone older than 65, there are a lot of things that seem like they just happened yesterday — like almost everything that happened in the 1990s. That date was just a blink ago. The 1960s seem like last month.

There’s so much history as an octogenarian, like riding to school one morning and Dad turned on the news when President Eisenhower said that we were going to war in Korea. 

I didn’t even know where Korea was located on the globe — somewhere over on the other side, somewhere very far away, and small.

I was working for the Bureau of Public Roads in Lincoln, Nebraska, when President Kennedy blockaded Cuba from installing nuclear warheads, and we wondered if World War III would start.

I’d been raised on “the last days” and “time of the end,” so I’d been expecting it for years.

The end still hasn’t happened but I’ve decided that “end times” are most certainly, when one’s life has run its course.  It comes to all of us.

It’s just that once you hit 80, you know it’s getting closer than close. When a friend of mine was approaching the end of her life, she started listening to all the television preachers, even though she’d always been agnostic.

“I’m hedging my bets,” she said, grinning.  

When you’re older, you remember a lot and you’ve forgotten some things, too.

I know how to do a lot of stuff that nobody cares about anymore like type, make sauerkraut, grow food, and sew clothes.  I love making things from scratch, and actually cooking, while most people eat out of boxes.

I love trying out new things. Once, I decided to paint my fingernails with all kinds of design ideas I’d found on Pinterest for a whole year. I photographed my handiwork and put it in the family album to prove I’d done it. 

My friends laughed at me because in all these years, I’d never really been fussy about manicures. I love getting my hands in the dirt and can’t be bothered with gloves; but for a year, I persevered painting my nails.

I’ve been lucky in life that I know my gender — although I haven’t liked how they’ve been treated, and I applaud them when they take the lead.

I’d vote for a woman president in a heartbeat. When I was becoming an adult, I didn’t have a clue about how strong or smart I really was as a woman.

My religious upbringing did a huge disservice to the young females in the flock by telling them to be subservient, cover their heads, not speak up. I’m glad I’ve lived long enough to see that trend reversed — but we still have a long way to go!

At my age, there’s a lot I don’t know — mostly about mechanical things, digital stuff, anything wired. Some new inventions I’ve mastered, and some I don’t care two hoots about — like storing things in a cloud.  I just want clouds to rain.

My daughter called and announced she was cleaning out the garage.

“My spin class coach said we should be thinking about getting rid of things we don’t want to carry into the next decade,” she said. “There’s a lot of stuff out there to toss!”

“Oh my,” said my sister, who was also on the line. “I didn’t realize that 2020 was the new decade.”

Jess has always paid attention to each new decade in her life. For her it signaled a change, some new beginning, and this one had snuck up on her.

“Well, it’s only two weeks away, now,” Jess said. “I think it’s too late to lose two houses and 20 pounds.”

“2020” used to seem like a science fiction date to me and here we are spending another day in the country.

I remember a little girl discovering how old I was in comparison to her six years and she said, “How did you last so long,” and I wasn’t even 40. 

Sometimes I ask myself that same question!

Last modified Dec. 31, 2019

 

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