Never in my wildest dreams when I was young and foolish, could I have
imagined that on my 88th birthday next week I would be wandering around
town in a brand new CU varsity letter jacket. John Lennon may have
known it though when he wrote, "Life is what happens when you are
making other plans." Birthdays among the elderly do make us wonder how
in the world we ever made it from there to here without any planning.
As my longtime friend Terry commented, "Hooray! I know the oldest
person in G. J. who owns a new letter jacket." Football star Whizzer
White got his a couple of years after I left CU. I wonder whether he
wore it after graduation, or put it away in mothballs. Of course,
years on the Supreme Court give one a dignity I seem to lack. But I had
to wait 70 years for mine and he got his right away.
In 1930 as a very naive college freshman I chose a major in economics
for reasons far beyond my memory or understanding now. What could any
woman have possibly expected to do with that? At that time you could be
a teacher or a nurse or a housewife -- all highly admirable occupations,
but the choice was somewhat limited.
Recently a lawyer friend asked me what I would have chosen as a career
if today's opportunities for women had been available when I was 20. I
didn't have the vaguest idea. I mentioned journalism, or maybe law.
She grinned and suggested that as a journalist I would have had to
report the news, not get involved in causes that make the news. Hmmm.
Maybe I would have been a lawyer.
I am one of the lucky ones, to have lived through most of the 20th
century. It was a spectacular century and I'm glad I got to watch a
the action and participate in some of it.
There are a lot of us who did just that. According to the last census
there are over 4 million Americans over 85. And we all have at least
one thing in common. We have watched our country change from an
agrarian land to one with huge cities laced with super highways, and
electronic and scientific miracles that are an every day part of our
lives. And we have seen major social changes. Women got the vote and
Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of the bus. And that was only the
beginning. We watched it happen.
So what if I am having another birthday ? I did not grow an annual ring
like a tree. I just grew another wrinkle, or maybe two. And because I
have had more birthdays than most people I have more rings -- uh,
wrinkles and less energy. As one of my Baby Boomer friends commented,
"Age is a matter of quality, not quantity." Very true, but I hope she
remembers that 30 years from now when she is living with the physical
problems of age.
Some of us say, "Things aren't like they used to be." I say, "Thank
goodness." When I started this trip we didn't have hot showers,
cappuccino, e-mail or Rocky Road ice cream. Scotch tape, antibiotics,
crossword puzzles and canned beer were in the distant future.
I'll take today -- full of horrible problems as it is. And as I think
of all the things I probably shouldn't do, I keep quoting to myself Erma
Bombeck's wise comment, "Remember all those women on the Titanic who
waved off the dessert cart."
So I'll have another birthday. I won't ride my motorcycle to work or go
up in a hot air balloon, but I will wear my new letter jacket even if
it is 90 degrees in the shade and see my friends and talk to my kids,
and have a cake -- chocolate, of course. Like Caroline Bird's salty
old woman, I'll wake up in the morning wondering what is going to happen
and looking forward to it, whatever it is. Of course, whatever it is
will have to wait until I have checked to see whether most of my parts
are in working order and I have had my coffee.