I started writing this post a couple weeks prior to my 74th birthday. Then all hell broke loose with my younger daughter and I had to drop just about everything I was doing and work diligently with her. The issues remain and we’re still figuring out how best to deal with these newly surfaced problems, but I’m finally getting back to writing and posting here. The next four paragraphs were written in May. The rest was written today. If some of it seems a bit disjointed, it’s likely because I forgot exactly the point I was trying to make and have added a bit of speculation and a conclusion that may not track as well as they could. C’est la vie!
You’d think a man my age wouldn’t be paying close enough attention to approaching birthdays all that much and, for the most part, that may be true. It’s not like I’m obsessed with my birthday. There was at least one year where I completely forgot about it until my mother asked what I was planning. Many others have passed that weren’t all that important or memorable. But something has changed … very recently. I’m realizing the prism through which I view the world has tilted a bit. This tilt is primarily a result of my age and what it means for me as an individual and as a functioning member of society.
I’ve been giving it a little thought and I believe I understand the dynamics of what’s happening. When we’re young—and even into our 40s, maybe 50s—we’re generally looking forward to improving our lot professionally or with respect to how we make our living. Usually, with age and experience come greater responsibility and authority, as well as increased income and growing benefits … if you’re lucky. Once you reach retirement age, things begin to change. Suddenly opportunities aren’t as easy to come by. Advancement may even stop, with the exception of very few positions, which are reserved for only a few.
In most of the world age and wisdom are revered. The elderly are respected for their accumulated experience and knowledge. In the United States of America, that just isn’t the case. We are a society enamored of youth and derisive of age. We tend to toss people aside once they reach around 65 years of age; the deadline we’ve set for determining retirement eligibility. I’m way beyond that, but I’m just beginning to realize the changes I need to make in my thinking in order to smooth out my final chapters.
When I was in my thirties I came to the conclusion the only thing I was truly interested in achieving was wisdom. Yet I knew that it not only came with age, but one can’t merely hang out a shingle declaring oneself a wise person. That’s for others to determine. At least, that’s how I see it … if one isn’t a charlatan. What’s happening to me now is I’ve realized, viscerally as opposed to intellectually, I am at an age where growing older has nothing to do with improving my lot in life, at least not with respect to employment or professional standing.
I believe my task now is to strive to accept the physical and intellectual limitations brought on by the aging process, while strenuously working to minimize their destructive or deteriorating effects in whatever way I’m capable of. This is why I have been going to the gym to lift weights. It’s also why I write. As well, I’ve decided not to just sit back and be “retired.” I still have a great deal to say. I’m still deeply interested in the direction our country is going in. I care for my daughters and my wife and want to be here for them as long as possible, while staying as healthy and as “in touch” as possible.
I think there’s something deeper that’s going on with me and my view of the world, and I think I was approaching it when I began this post two months (approx) ago. Unfortunately, my memory is suffering from what seems to be a combination of old age (which might means either it’s degrading or I just don’t give a shit about many of the things I did before) and the lingering effects of having Covid-19 at the beginning of the year. Which means I’ll have a lot more to say about this as time goes by. Stay tuned!
I took my kids shopping today. Their mother’s (that would be my wife’s) birthday is in two days and they needed to buy a present for her. It’s kind of frustrating; they either don’t remember or don’t care, depending on how things are going, and I’m horrible at remembering these kinds of things. Nevertheless, I did have it together enough to work out a time and date on which to take them.
We sort of snuck out of the house so Linda wouldn’t see us leaving, though I’m pretty sure she has a good idea of what we were doing. We headed over to Target, where I thought for sure they’d be able to find something for her. I found a parking space (it was crowded) and told them I would wait in the car until they had picked something out, then they could text me and I’d come in and pay for the item(s) they’d decided on.
Fifteen minutes later I got a text saying they couldn’t find anything, so I told them to come on out and we’d go somewhere else. Unfortunately, there aren’t very many places to go, what with the Covid restrictions tightening because some of us are too stupid to understand science, and too selfish to care about others. We drove to the Simi Town Center, our local, primarily outdoor, mall that has been struggling ever since it opened. We walked around a bit, but just about everything was closed; many of the storefronts were empty.
We finally ended up at Marshall’s, where we had started and my oldest didn’t want to wait in line to get in (we would have been third in line.) When, after walking around for a while, we returned we were sixth in line. Regardless, it didn’t take long and within about 10 minutes we were inside. I knew Marshall’s had, in addition to clothing, lots of decorative and household items and that’s where we looked. We ended up finding a few nice things we’re hopeful she’ll like. I’m thinking she’ll just be happy they got her something.
I’m also happy I remembered. I’ve always had trouble remembering birthdays; I’ve even forgotten mine. Years ago (10 and a half to be pretty close to exact) I posted my thoughts about Facebook making it easier for people like me (maybe “men like me” would be more correct) to recall birthdays but, as I’ve got enough friends that at least one—sometimes three or four—will be celebrating on any given day, I’ve come to the conclusion I just can’t afford doing it each and every day. Relatives and close friends are different, yet I even forget or pass over wishing them a happy birthday. Maybe it’s right; maybe I’m an asshole. I’m not fit to make that call.
This post is from my old blog, The Cranky Curmudgeon. It was written nearly 14 years ago, shortly after my oldest’s fifth birthday.
So what is it with Thank You cards? When did they become de rigeur . . . a fixture of every child’s birthday and gift-giving Winter solstice celebration?
My daughter celebrated her 5th birthday recently and we had a party for over twenty children and adults. We provided entertainment for the children, lots of food and drink for everybody, really nice loot bags for the kids, a large cake, and a pinata filled with lots of candy. My wife spent around a week’s worth of her spare time researching and purchasing everything necessary to make the kids feel special. This included purchasing inexpensive cowboy/cowgirl hats and bandanas, as the party was held at a nearby farm where the kids could feed animals and enjoy some really fun and clever rides. I spent a good 10 – 15 hours running around and picking up things and making arrangements. We really wanted everyone to have a good time.
Now comes the aftermath. My wife is not the best at sending out Thank You cards, and I have virtually no experience doing it at all. I mean, isn’t it against the law for men to do this kind of thing – no matter how sensitive they are? So . . . here it is, a couple of weeks later and the cards she took the time to purchase are still sitting on the table . . . in their original box. They’re taunting me. Like chocolate in a candy dish, I sometimes hear them calling out my name.
Isn’t a sincere “Thank You” at the party’s end enough for everybody? I don’t know; maybe she feels better about not doing it than I do, but why do I have this sinking feeling we must carry some sort of guilt because we have yet to send a hand-written, personalized note written by us as though it was our child channeling Emily Post or Martha Stewart?
Here’s an example of a Thank You we received the day after a 5-year-old’s birthday party:
Thank for coming to my birthday party. I was really happy you could be there. The Spiderman backpack will be really useful next year in Kindergarten to carry my laptop as I’m learning how to post covered calls without the help of my broker.
I just came across this tweet from Teh Donald™, which I’m quite sure is part of the collection of tweets where he has previously said something about someone else (usually Obama) that is actually applicable to his presidency. Donald John Trump has severely wounded irony and satire. It remains to be seen if we’ll ever recover a normal, decent sense of humor.
I’m also (not sure this is the right word) “pleased” to see this very special one was originally born on my 67th birthday and will now follow me all the days of my life . . . which are far fewer than they were even then.
During my activity against the War in Vietnam, as well as other Peace & Justice movement activities I was involved in, I really never thought I would see my thirties. I know now I was a dreamer and a bit too wrapped up in my view of what was happening in the country, but I thought we were ripe for a revolution and I thought I would be on the front lines. That was nearly fifty years ago and time has given me a new perspective on life, the universe, and everything (H/T to Douglas Adams R.I.P.).
Today, however, marks the mid-point in my seventieth journey around our home star, Sol. It’s my half-birthday! I know . . . aren’t I a little too old to be celebrating half birthdays? I suppose, but this day has some other significance for me. Today marks the thirty-seventh year since a man surprised me on my doorstep in Venice, California, where I was living with my soon-to-be wife. He held me at gunpoint*, threatening to blow my “fucking brains out.” I managed to escape when he went to get something with which to tie my hands behind my back, something I had no intention of allowing him to do. I was prepared to attempt attacking him as he tried, but I didn’t have to. I had been preparing by slowly getting my right foot behind the bedroom door. I was lying spread-eagled on the floor, and each time he looked away I inched my foot closer and closer to the position I wanted.
Fortunately, I was able to get away from him by slamming the bedroom door (well, almost. The landlord had installed new carpeting and neglected to plane the bottom of the door, so it was almost impossible to shut it without a lot of force) in his face, levitating myself from the floor (lots of adrenaline involved at this point), grabbing my Ithaca Riot Pump Shotgun from the closet where I had carefully hidden it and practiced this very thing, and suggested he leave before I killed him. The remainder of the story is a bit convoluted and involved numerous calls to three different police departments before the first one I called finally realized they were, indeed, the proper jurisdiction for where I lived; about 200 feet east of Carroll Canal, on Ocean Avenue. It was years before I was able to finally throw off the hyper-vigilance this episode generated in me.
Also, this coming April I will be ten years older than my father was when he shed his mortal coil. This past September marked thirty-two years since he died. If you’ve read some of my other posts, his death weighed on heavily on me for quite some time. I was always considered the spitting image of him and my mother used to say “You’re just like your father” so often I was convinced fifty-nine was the limit for me as well. I think it wasn’t until I passed the age where he had had his second heart attack, and I had nothing more than moderate hypertension to deal with, I finally convinced myself I would likely live longer than he had.
So, here I am on the downside of my seventieth year on the planet. I actually used Microsoft Project to determine exactly when I would begin the second half of the year, and it was midnight today. Now, in celebration of having made it this far, and because it’s “the season,” I’m sharing two pictures I just found of a couple of my earliest Christmases. Next year is going to be interesting, no doubt. Perhaps it’s been long enough, and I can fully retell the story of this episode some time soon. This was a start.
Not So Happy. Perhaps Wondering Why I’m Sitting on Santa’s Lap When I’m Jewish!
Much Happier. I Must Have Decided I Was An Atheist By Now & It Didn’t Matter.
* The link “He held me at gunpoint,” above, is to the decision in a re-trial the defendant won on one count of murder he was found guilty of. I was required to appear as a witness and, since he had become a jailhouse lawyer in the interim, he represented himself, meaning he was the one who questioned me when I gave my testimony. Two things – He was partially victorious on several other charges and the case was remanded to the trial court for reconsideration. As far as I know, he’s still in prison. Second, although the appellate court states he took three guns from me, he only took one; a Ruger Blackhawk .357 Magnum, with which he shot and killed two people. I carried a fair amount of guilt around for quite some time before I could finally convince myself those deaths were not at least partially on me.
Lately I’ve found myself wondering if it’s too late for me to have a mid-life crisis. Maybe, if 70 is the new 50, the time is just about nigh. I’ve never had one and I’m thinking I may have missed out.
I keep discovering new ways that Facebook has changed my life. I began noticing that every time the birthday of one of my FB friends would show up in the top right corner of the page, I would take a moment to click on the person’s name and send them a greeting on their wall. At first I would note how Facebook was slowly eroding the old saw about men never remembering birthdays. Obviously, it wasn’t me who was doing the remembering but, nevertheless, I was aware of the existence of the birthday and was able to extend my wishes for an enjoyable one.
Frankly, I had always felt a little guilty about not remembering birthdays because I kind of enjoy experiencing mine. However, in all honesty the guilt wasn’t quite strong enough for me to always remember when birthdays occurred. I had made some valiant attempts, through entering the dates for most of my family in my Outlook calendar, which I transported from computer to computer over the years . . . sometimes ending up with multiple listings such that I began to tune the whole business out. Additionally, there were recurring periods where I just wasn’t very good at checking my calendar.
This has been an ongoing struggle, but it’s only been 64 years (a week from this Saturday, but I’m not fishing), so perhaps there’s hope for me yet. When I was in the corporate world, it was always one of the things I put down on the mandatory list of items I needed to work on – “improve my use of personal organizational tools to increase efficiency and effectiveness”.
Now I’ve got Facebook, which keeps improving my ability to track things I otherwise never paid much attention to. Of course, birthdays don’t exactly make all that big a difference in my professional life, so there are numerous other tools I’ve come to use. However, the concept of gathering information from my contacts, associates, friends, family, etc. such that I can keep continuously better track of the things that matter to me most, is an awesome thing. Facebook, despite whatever shortcomings we may all ascribe to it, has played somewhat of a major role in this continuous development. For that I’m thankful.
BTW – I was reminded of this cultural shift by Euan Semple, a wonderful blogger and someone I’m happy to say is a Facebook friend of mine. Euan’s birthday is today and he posted the following on his wall: “I turned off posting to my wall because of the amount of hacking Facebook was suffering but doing so just before my birthday and preventing people sending birthday wishes was a bit dumb!” I guess that about explains it for me. I am getting no small amount of joy from being able to send birthday wishes to my friends; all because of Facebook. I like to think, in some small way these acts are bringing us closer together. Has Facebook changed the way you interact with your friends, etc.?
Right after (and I do mean “right” after) I had shown some friends the “Crazy Double Rainbow Guy” YouTube video, it started to rain a bit. This, in and of itself, was quite unusual here in Southern California. July is not known for a month in which you can expect any kind of precipitation. As I was grilling some hot dogs and hamburgers for the kids and our adult guests (it was my oldest daughter’s 9th birthday party), I looked up and saw a somewhat faint, yet quite distinct, double rainbow.
It was neither as full, nor as bright, as the one that had inspired such ecstasy in the crazy guy, but there it was . . . as was my Flip videocam. I had put on an apron (something I seldom do) and stashed the camera in one of the pockets. I managed to record a bit of my crazy-ass double rainbow and a few comments from my perspective as well. I offer them here not as any especially entertaining video, but rather as a way to memorialize the event, which I considered quite serendipitous and synchronicitous (if I may be so bold as to make up my own words :)) Here’s the link. Hope anyone who sees it (undoubtedly not many will) finds it at least a bit entertaining.
One of the more interesting things I’ve noticed about Facebook, not including the brouhaha over privacy we’re all acutely aware of – at least most of us are – is how it’s slowly changing my relationship to things I didn’t really used to have a relationship with. I am talking about the manly art of remembering birthdays.
Yesterday, I found myself on Facebook and noticed it was a friend’s birthday. Normally, I don’t pay a great deal of attention to birthdays. Like most men (I think) they come and go and we don’t spend a great deal of time at a Hallmark store poring over dozens of cards, looking for the perfect one to give our friends, etc. As far as I can tell, based on the yearly stories surrounding no less a card-remembering day than Valentines, men are notorious for waiting until the last minute to get something for their girlfriend, wife, etc. – if they get anything at all.
I’m not here to argue whether or not this is a good thing. I suspect my wife will be happier if I remember special occasions each year, though this year we both spaced our anniversary : ). I question whether or not it means anything to my male friends, though I suspect it does to some extent. I think everyone likes to be remembered or to know they’ve been thought of by loved ones and even acquaintances.
So, social media continues to fascinate me. Today I’m off to Boston to attend my first ever Enterprise 2.0 Conference. My goal is to learn what I can but, more importantly, it’s to cement some relationships I’ve been conducting virtually for – in some cases – several years. This is also the first conference I will ever have attended that wasn’t under the auspices of the company I worked for during the last two decades. It’s kind of nice to be doing it on my own dime. Somehow, it seems even more valuable.
I retired nearly 13 years ago, though I've continued to work during most of the time since then. I'm hoping to return to work on the RS-25 rocket engine program (formerly the SSME) which will power our return to the moon. Mostly I'm just cruising, making the most of what time I have remaining.
Although my time is nearly up, I still care deeply about the kind of world I'll be leaving to those who follow me and, to that end, I am devoted to seeing the forces of repression and authoritarianism are at least held at bay, if not crushed out of existence.
I write about things that interest me and, as an eclectic soul, my interests run the gamut from science to spirituality, governance to economics, art and engineering. I'm hopeful one day my children will read what I've left behind.
The views expressed herein are those of the author. Any opinions regarding the value or worth of particular business processes, tools, or procedures, whether at his former place of employment, at a current client's enterprise, or in general, are his responsibility alone.