Turning 65: A senior with benefits

(Photo: Suzette Standring with granddaughter Lulu at The Cahoon Museum of Art in Cotuit, Cape Cod, MA)

I’m a senior with benefits, very different from “friends with benefits.” Turning 65 is a loaded baked potato: retirement, social security, Medicare, all slathered in anti-aging creams, and sprinkled with AAA senior discounts. What just happened?  One minute I’m 18, all grown-up glamor, wearing platform shoes and a mini-skirt to my first job, and then, blink. I’m admiring senior celebrities on the cover of AARP Magazine.  What’s it all about, Alfie?  (Cue Dionne Warwick 1967).

There are benefits to aging. You learn stuff, so-called pearls of wisdom. There’s no necklace from me, but how about a bracelet? Here’s how I reached 65 with my sanity and my soul largely intact.

Give grace. We all evolve from past mistakes or bad decisions. How else does anyone grow? Don’t lock a person’s identity into old sins. Is your own thinking the same from, say, 20 to 40 years ago? 

Use sunblock early in life and often.  It will save you a fortune in Tutankhamun-style, industrial strength skin preservatives later.

(Photo: National Geographic)

 

Your enemies are not mine. I wait until someone hurts me directly. Then I make my own decisions about whether it can be worked out, or if I have to vote him/her off my island.  But I don’t rely on somebody else’s reasons to dislike others. It’s not disloyalty.  It’s being fair.

I don’t run up the war flag on words. Feel the spirit in which words are said, not the words themselves.  Many clumsy things have been said to me, but often in the spirit of a friendly conversation. Outmoded terms or ignorance are not the same as hate. Patience will reward you with new friends and many opportunities to help them expand their vocabularies later.

Break bread with family. Sharing food together is a chance to accompany loved ones through their turmoils and triumphs.

On that note, boys and girls, learn to cook. The home cook is the creator and master of memories.

God (or a higher power if you will) is my unfailing source for peace. Alternatively, friends falter, talking heads confuse, personal agendas rule, and advice can be contradictory.  But prayer, meditation, nature, or however one communes with the Spirit, restores balance and hope even through a long siege of troubles.

Proverbs 16:31 says, “Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.” Being virtuous remains a long, long way off, but a good silver rinse might do the trick. 

My 11-year-old granddaughter made up a verse for me, “Sixty-five and you’re still alive!”  I hugged her, “Thanks, Lulu, now please stop talking.” Perhaps she has a point: it’s a present to be present.

This column ran nationally through  GateHouse Media on 8/13 and in The Patriot Ledger.

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Suzette Standring

SUZETTE MARTINEZ STANDRING is a nationally syndicated columnist with GateHouse Media. Her two award winning books, The Art of Opinion Writing: Insider Secrets from Top Op-Ed Columnists (2014) and The Art of Column Writing (2008) are used in journalism courses such as Johns Hopkins University. Suzette is a past president of The National Society of Newspaper Columnists, and the host of It’s All Write With Suzette, a cable TV show about writing. Visit www.readsuzette.com or email suzmar@comcast.net
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