I never really gave the phrase “the golden years” much thought when I was a young man, but now that I have reached those years, it got me thinking. The term, I’ve since discovered, refers to turning 65 and retiring, although the days of working at one job for 40+ years, getting a “gold” watch, and retreating into the sunset is pretty rare. These days, at 65 you’re probably working two jobs and your adult kids have moved back home! More like the “nickel” years. This nod to precious metals is probably tied to celebrating special anniversaries: 25 years silver, 50 yeas gold (meaning you are well into your golden years, unless you got married at 15), and platinum for those who make it to 70 years of marriage! There is one other precious metal – palladium, rarer and more expensive than the other three, and given the gap in years represented above, the palladium anniversary should mark 85 years of marriage. . . Let that sink in.
Of course, what is not represented in these expensive remembrances is the fact that your move up the metal chart coincides with the deterioration of your body – Yes, a gold watch is a nice gift, but you would trade it in a heartbeat if you could open the package without pain. It’s a slow decline, which creeps up on you sometimes without warning and sometimes with warning, but it’s not like there is much you can do about it. You are reminded of this on a daily basis. For example, you’re getting ready to go out for the evening and you say to your spouse as you head for the door:
“Hang on I gotta take a quick pee before we go,” which is followed by peals of laughter!
At that exact moment, you are reminded that at your age the words “quick” and “pee” do not go together. It is best to ignore the laughter rather than try a witty comeback like:
“You’re no quicker.”
I can guarantee you that this will only end badly! Then, there is waking up three or more times a night for that “quick pee,” waking up the entire household as your creaking joints make their way to the bathroom.
The list of declining functions is a long one, but one that can cause a great deal of trouble is the loss of hearing. Ever go to a movie matinee with a bunch of seniors?
“What did he say?”
Over, and over, and over again. If you are a child of the 50s as I am, your teenage and young adult years were spent constantly listening to music at deafening levels. At home, at concerts, with headphones, with earbuds, and if you are like me, you’re still doing it. If, by chance, you were a fan of heavy metal. . .well, your hearing doesn’t stand a chance. Now, if you’ve reached any of the anniversary milestones mentioned above the hearing deficiency could be a blessing in disguise. However, if you are 70, single, and dating, the lack of hearing could definitely be a liability, but I do applaud your optimism. Consider the following.
A single, septuagenarian friend of mine was out on a date some time ago with someone new and in a similar age bracket. He was on his best behavior and sparing no expense as he is out to impress this latest conquest – just using the word “conquest” for two 70-year-olds on a date is the epitome of optimism, but I digress. They are seated at a swank restaurant table and he is attentively listening to everything the woman is saying. You need to understand the very important distinction here that “listening” should never be confused with “hearing.” She is talking about her children, her grandchildren, her career, etc., etc., and he is maybe hearing half of what she is saying, but he’s been on the dating scene for a while, so a seasoned professional when it comes to his hearing deficiency, smiling, nodding, adding grunts of agreement at just the right time, even though he has no clue what she is talking about. He is absolutely winging it and doing an admirable job, that is until the waiter appears to take their orders.
They both put on their reading glasses to peruse the menu, and give their selections to the waiter, who knows without a doubt that this is a first date, they can always tell. My friend is thinking to himself that either the waiter thinks this is really adorable that a couple of 70-year-olds are out on a first date, or the more likely scenario: God, if I ever get to this age and have to start dating all over again, just shoot me! The order is taken and then the waiter asks that question that they never asked in the 60s, 70s, even 80s:
“Are there any food allergies the chef should know about?”
My friend catches the word allergy, and responds no, but his date looks at the waiter with a smile and says:
“Yes, thanks for asking, I have a PEANUT allergy.”
But that’s not the word my friend hears!
He is in shock. Not because his date has an allergy, no, not that. He is in shock because he cannot fathom why she is telling the waiter that she is allergic to that particular body part. For those of you just getting it. . .Thanks for catching up! But, as I mentioned, my friend is a seasoned pro, and his facial expression gives away nothing. He looks across the table with a concerned look and feeling that he needs to say something:
“What happens when you eat them?”
The clever use of the plural “them” demonstrates how much of a pro he really is. He also somehow manages to keep it all together when she responds:
“I get a gag reflex.”
Now, most men would have lost it right there, but not my friend, he is still intact, and maybe just a little bit curious as to where this is going when he politely asks:
“What did the doctor recommend?”
“Oh, the doctor told me that I needed to build up a tolerance.”
And this is when it all goes south as he replies:
“Well, I can certainly help you with that.”
Ah, the “golden” years!