Remember when your birthday meant a party with friends and a card with a $5 check from your grandmother?
I had a birthday on Friday, the speed limit birthday, my 65th. Rather than a celebration, it was more like a wake. I spent my big day on hold with Social Security and Medicare trying to sign up for Part A and Part B while failing to unravel the Rubik’s Cube that is the 85,000 supplemental options people pitch me. Nothing kills a birthday buzz quicker than pricing hip replacement co-pays and long-term nursing home care.
More than my 60th, my 65th birthday has been harder to swallow than Joe Biden claiming the border is secure. All the aging jokes seem slightly less funny this time.
Some years ago, The Wife and I bought one of those expensive Swedish beds because the Swedes are, apparently, expert sleepers. The bed cost a fortune, and when it arrived, we concluded this was the last bed we will ever buy. Hence, we began calling it our “death bed.”
Since then, we have added two “death lamps,” a death “air conditioning unit,” and a “death roof” that came with a 30-year warranty, which I assured the roofer was not necessary. The only thing I expect to have over my head 30-years from now is grass.
When we’re in our 20s and 30s, time is an ally. Young people have so much time left they actually get bored. They can waste time like I can spill table salt. When you’re 20, the years seem longer than it takes to count the votes in an L.A. city election.
By our 40s birthdays become more ominous. They sneak up on us, with each passing year adding an ache or pain or paunch or wrinkle where once we had jutting jawlines or high hemlines.
By our 50s, those jeans that once made our butts desirable now look like sausage casing about to rupture. The only thing still thin about us is our once full heads of hair.
Now that I’ve made it to the midway point of my 60s, time rolls by like the numbers on a gas pump. The years become one continuous loop: RoseParadeValentine’sDaySpringTrainingMemorialDayJulyFourthLaborDayHalloweenThanksgiving ChristmasNewYearsEveRoseParade…
As we age, we start to calculate time differently. Not only are our childhood heroes old men, so are their children. Ken Griffey, Jr. is 52! We’re not only invisible to the waitresses at Hooters, but also at Dupar’s.
How many new cars do I have left to buy? How many vacations? The Wife and I have begun to count cats. Is it five or six since we first met? Six: Koots, Aru, Junior, Chapman, Lizzy and now Leonard.
Leonard is a new cat, an orange tabby, six weeks old. We wanted to call him “Lenny,” but when he causes trouble, he’s “Leonard,” the same way I’m “Douglas” when I’ve done something to irritate The Wife. Thus far Lenny is about 80% Leonard. (For the record, I’m 90% “Douglas.”)
Leonard is an indoor cat, meaning he should live 12 to 18 years. And that got me thinking, “Who will out-live who?” Should Leonard last, say, 15 years, I will be 80 when he goes.
Eighty! Spry, youthful, forever-30 me, an 80-year-old! And that’s only if I’m lucky enough to make it that far.
Currently, the actuarial tables say the life expectancy for the average American male is 77 years. Leonard could easily out-live your friendly neighborhood newspaper columnist. Our cute, two-pound ball of orange fur is now a sinister foreshadowing of our imminent demise.
Leonard is now our “death cat.”
I watch him carefully as he ping-pongs from the sofa to the kitchen to the hall closet then up the drapes and back to the sofa, aware, as he dashes between my feet, he’s a broken hip waiting to happen. And that future broken hip reminds me again there will be no more $5 birthday checks from my grandmother who has been dead for almost 40-years.
Instead, I’m the senior citizen whose birthday was spent pricing Medicare supplementals while wondering aloud why we didn’t get a desert tortoise instead of a kitten. They live to be a hundred, don’t they?
Doug McIntyre’s column appears Sundays. He can be reached at: Doug@DougMcIntyre.com.