Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Big Seven-Oh

Ten years ago today, turning age 60 was an exercise in psychological trauma. My most recent book had won good reviews but was a dismal failure in the stores. My newspaper was already sliding into the toilet; going to work was no longer a joy but a chore. My knees and back had started to hurt, a legacy of osteoarthritis genes on both sides of the family.

I was so buffaloed that at dinner with good friends that night I refused to talk about what should have been a happy event and snapped at them whenever they brought up the subject.

Turning 70 is entirely different. I'm grateful just to be alive.

That's what a heart attack and a triple bypass at age 69 will do for one's perspective. Old aches and pains, both psychological and physical, suddenly seem small potatoes when the mirror of cardiac mortality is thrust into your face. It's nature's way of saying "Quit your bitching and enjoy the time you have left."

Over that decade between 60 and 70 things turned out to be pretty good. Two thriving sons, two marvelous daughters-in-law, four loving grandchildren. A quintet of successful surgeries. Three well-received mystery novels. A honorable retirement from a long career. Whole summers with the matchless Lady Friend at a place I love on the shore of Lake Superior.

And I'm still writing. Not as much as before, but maybe the prose is improving.

On to 80, and if I don't make it, so what?


  1. Happy Birthday, Henry, old pal. I've been doing this 70 thing for six months and I'm happy as can be. May you continue to be joyful, too. Onward, Onward!


    I'm expecting you to still be writing on your 80th - and hoping I will still be reading it.

  3. And I remember when you and I went to a bar on your 21st so we could get your ceremonial first legal drink. It seemed like yesterday.


  4. Thanks, Marshall and Doug.

    And, Sam, recall that the bartender at the Ubaa refused to serve me at 11:45 p.m. on August 16. Legally, one comes of age the day BEFORE the 21st birthday. The bartender wouldn't buy the argument. We had to go elsewhere for me to lose that particular virginity. By then it was after midnight on August 17.

  5. It's AN honorable. Not a honorable. You should know better by now!

  6. But I'm dishonorable and don't know how to pronounce it.