Herald and Journal Herald & Journal, May 4, 1998

Now it's downhill all the way

By MYRON HEUER

This coming Wednesday, May 6 is my birthday . . . my 70th.

Happy Birthday to me. Someone once said, as you get older you don't celebrate your birthdays, you just put up with them. You're just thankful you've made it this far.

Birthday milestones seem more noticeable when you reach a new decade. Let's go over these years by tens.

Birthdays are very important during your first decade. It's when you get lots of presents, have parties, cakes and ice cream. You look forward to your birthday. Friends and relatives say, "Look at how our birthday boy (or girl) has grown."

Much happens during the second decade of your life. Your birthday is in the double digits, you become a teenager, you become interested in the opposite sex, you become of age, are eligible to join the armed services, vote and might even get married. Your birthday presents change from toys to shirts, socks, neckties and underwear. Yes, your life is action-packed during your second decade.

The third decade, when you are in your 20s, is also very eventful. I got married, and Betty and I had all three of our children during these 10 years. I also had a hitch in the army during the Korean War. Back then, we didn't become of age until we reached 21. I voted in my first election. I voted for Eisenhower, for both elections.

Something called rock 'n' roll and a snarly-looking character named Elvis arrived on the scene. Aside from the noise from guitars, it was a peaceful decade after the Korean War was over.

Then the fourth decade, when you're between 30 and 40. These are the years when you're at your peak, so you think. But it's a struggle raising your kids, getting them educated, keeping them out of trouble while you work your head off. Chances are you have a big fat mortgage to pay off . . . not as big as today's mortgages, but big for the times. Rock 'n' roll is everywhere. I thought it was a short-lived fad.

Now the fifth decade, in my case the '60s. You get the best radio job you'll ever get. Disc jockey on WHO in Des Moines, Iowa. You're playing country music on all-night radio, with an audience from all over North America. But these are not good times, as the Vietnam War is on. The newscasts are full of the sad news. Body count is a common term used in reporting the war. You're in your 40s. They say life begins at 40. Who said that? And why?

You're beginning to hate your birthdays. Previous yearly birthday celebrations for you were enjoyed by your kids more than you because they'd get to "spank" you. One whack for every year. Remember that tradition? Your body is starting to show a little wear and tear . . . that paunch around your middle seems to be getting bigger.

The sixth decade can be traumatic. You reach 50 and you realize you're half way to 100. Your life is half over. Up to now, you didn't think about getting old and the inevitable death you'll have to put up with. You make out a will. You get humorous cards chiding you about getting old. Birthdays aren't much fun. You have dinner out, go home and go to bed.

Then comes the seventh decade, when you reach the 60s. You can retire this year. You can't wait until you get your first social security check. Your kids are, by now, married and you have grandchildren. Your body starts to fall apart some more. And they're still playing rock 'n' roll on the radio, even though Elvis is gone.

And now, here I am at the eighth decade . . . in the 70s. Retirement is moving along. You wonder if you'll reach the 80s. . . .or the 90s . . . or even the 100s. You might find it necessary to use a cane, walker or wheelchair by now. Those battery-operated scooters are neat . . . but they sure cost a lot. A question to all seniors . . . Have you noticed that your doctor is just a kid? Another concern for seniors . . . will Social Security die before you do?

I've been ignoring my birthday for years. There'll probably be a cake and dinner out at some nice restaurant that has senior citizen discounts.

Well, I guess you'd call it a happy birthday. Happy to have lasted this long. And now that I'm over the hump, it's downhill all the way.

You know you're getting old when you are fairly convinced that there is no problem with your eyes. It's just that other people are becoming slightly blurry.


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