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Thursday, June 22, 2006 02:00 pm

When today’s 65 is yesterday’s... 65!

Note to self: Television doesn’t resemble reality

I’m 65. The TV is on because I like background noise as I pretend to do my morning exercises. The man has a few wrinkles around his eyes, but his eyes are clear and bright. His hair is gray, but there’s plenty of it. His teeth shine white to match his eyes. It’s a given that the teeth are his own — no “choppers” constructed by dentists for this guy. He’s neither fat nor thin, and he skydives from a plane! He’s 65. The TV says, “Today’s 65 is yesterday’s 50.”
The noise continues. A female mirror image of the skydiver is climbing a mountain, hand over strong hand. Her thick hair reaches to the middle of her back. “Today’s 65 is yesterday’s 45!”
And so it goes, on the Internet, on the radio: 65 is the new 40. Newspaper polls tell me that 62.8 percent of seniors own a second home “down South,” 105 percent make love in bathtubs, 32 percent start second careers. “Today’s 65 is yesterday’s 21!” The 60-plus-year-old lifetime accountant now builds sailboats, and a 65-year-old insurance salesman buys one and sails around the world. I’m 65. The new trifocals are causing problems. My head bobs up and down like the bobblehead Ozzie Guillen doll on my pickup’s dashboard, but we make it to the garden center unscathed. I’m 65. My wife selects a pin oak to replace a maple tree killed by a tornado. Through my trifocals the tree is big, the tree is small, the tree is medium, the tree is big again. My wife says, “I’ll go get the man to put the tree in the truck.” She leaves. Get man? Put in truck? The pin oak, bundled in a dirt-filled canvas ball, is my height, and the total package weighs maybe 100 pounds — or 150, or 200, depending on which lens I use. Hell, I can toss a 200-pound bag into a pickup from 30 yards away. Maybe I’ll dribble it around some before I throw it in; maybe I’ll hook-shot it in. The pin oak will not move. I cannot budge it. A tree mocks me! I’ll outsmart it. A couple of 2-by-4’s are nearby; I use ’em as a ramp and try rocking the tree back and forth up the rails. The ramp breaks; I fall. My back is bent to a 45-degree angle; the tree is not bent to any angle. I use a broken 2-by-4 to beat the tree into submission; the bag breaks and bleeds dirt. My wife returns, man in tow. She surveys the damage and shakes her head. The man in tow puts the tree in the truck. Lifting trees is not his second career; it’s his first. He’s 21. I’m 65. Mike Pendleton calls later that day to wish me a happy birthday and invite me to go to Sam’s Club with him. “Go to Sam’s Club” is what Mike does. He was once a Presbyterian elder; then, after he retired, he resigned his Presbyterian position and became a Samologist. He worships at Sam’s Club every day now. He has a pew there, and he no longer believes in pills to help alleviate pain — he believes in pickles. Mike is a retired stockbroker; he made $2 billion over his working life. He cannot afford a second home “down South.”
“Twenty-four-gallon drum of blackberry mustard,” says Mike. “Only $18.95! Sale ends today.”
“No thanks, Mike. Tempting, but I’m booked solid all day.”
To the bookstore. I can’t remember the title or the author of the book I want, so I ask the clerk for help. It’s hard to see over the counter because I’m still bent over from the tree episode. The book has the word “moon” in the title, I tell him. If I’ll leave my name and phone number, he says, he’ll get back to me later. When my wife hands her credit card to the same clerk as she checks out, he says, “Bybee! That’s an unusual name — I think your dad was here just a few minutes ago. He seemed confused.”
My wife shakes her head. “Shake her head” is what she does these days. I’m 65. Day winding down: We stop by Kinko’s on the way home. The laminating machine’s operating instructions are four, by count, and two of them are “on” and “off.” I have written 22,000 computer programs in my life, but when the young lady sees that it’s my Medicare card I’m laminating, she rushes to help me, no doubt fearing that I’ll laminate my jowls if left unattended. End of day: The ad in the magazine I’m reading shows another full-haired senior swan diving off a 100-foot cliff. The caption reads, “No rocking chairs for us.”
I’m in a rocking chair as I read it. I’m 65 and I’m — laminated!


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