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Between the Lines, Gregory Dennis: When a big birthday arrives

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Posted on August 17, 2017 |
By Gregory Dennis



All the usual clichés apply. You live your life, try to be a good person and have some fun along the way — and then one day you wake up and you’re 65 years old. How in the world did that happen?

Medicare turns out to be more complicated than they make it sound. Anybody turning 65 is grateful for it. But it’s not socialized medicine. It’s subsidized healthcare — and more expensive than many of us thought.

There’s no explaining memory. I recall many random incidents from more than 50 years ago. They weren’t significant but for some reason they’re stuck in my brain. A swimming race. Asking a girl out and having her say no. The way my mother talked about loving being 40. The rope tow I was riding during the winter of the 1960 Olympics.

Over six-and-a half decades, having a sense of humor has saved my sanity on many occasions.

It’s true that love can come again later in life. Which makes it all the sweeter.

As everyone who is around the grandkids will tell you, they are a major day brightener. And then you can hand them right back to their parents.

At some point in your 60s, you finally start thinking you know a thing or two about life. Maybe you’ve learned enough to give other people advice. But of course no one wants to hear it.

Football is a brutal sport. If I had a son I would advise him against playing. My dad gave me that advice but I was too busy trying to prove I was a man. Fifty years later, I still feel some of those old injuries.

The big political issues never go away. So when something like the mad rush into the Iraq War — or the corruption of our current presidency — comes along, you know you’ve seen this movie before. You might not know whether it ends well. But at least you believe the nation will survive.

I’ve seen enough good news and bad news about the environment to know that climate change is really, really bad news. No way around the fact that it’s an existential threat. People of my generation will probably get out OK. But I worry about the kids and grandkids.

I remember watching the evening news and seeing brave black people in Selma being blasted with water hoses and chased down by Bull Connor’s dogs. I remember the March on Washington in 1963. I remember when Martin Luther King was shot. All my life, racism has been a scar on America. And now Charlottesville.

I can’t count the number of times over the past half-century that I’ve wondered to myself, “What is this country coming to?” But I still wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

God bless American journalism. I’ve spent part of the last 45 years reading and practicing it. And it’s never been more important than it is right now.

Our society’s emphasis on career success is way overrated. At some point you realize that what you did for a living usually doesn’t matter all that much. If you worked with good people, did something socially useful or at least benign, and tried to be kind along the way, you probably did your career right.

I wish I had been kinder along the way.

The best piece of advice my father ever gave me: If you have a chance to make a new friend, do it.

I’ve lived long enough in other places to know how special Vermont is. Whatever our challenges, we are blessed with community life, breathtaking beauty, a relatively flat class structure where it’s uncool to get too big for your britches, and a commitment across the board to preserve what is special about our state.

I often find myself quoting my mother’s insight that as you get older, it’s especially helpful to increase your tolerance for body pain.

Anybody who’s had a parent teach them to love the great outdoors is a very lucky person.

Music is god’s way of telling us that s/he loves us and wants us to be happy.

It sounds like a clichéd bummer to say it — but the approaching certainty of one’s death adds a special poignancy to life.

Youth is wasted on the young.

Buddhism and talk therapy: the best-ever routes to personal growth.

I sure hope what they say is true — about how 65 is the new 50.

Gregory Dennis’s column appears here every other Thursday and is archived on his blog at www.gregdennis.wordpress.com. Email: [email protected]. Twitter: @greengregdennis.

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