What’s In a Number? by Shirley Palmer

I’ve noticed through the years that different things have entirely different meanings to all different people.  That’s just life.  Whether it’s food, colors, weather, numbers – anything – we all have a different opinion about certain things.  Personally I don’t function well or enjoy the heat.  That’s one reason we leftSouthern Californiaand moved to Los Osos.  I couldn’t stand the heat and my husband hated air-conditioning, so we decided after retirement if we were to keep our marriage a happy one, we’d have to find a place where I was happy and could survive without air-conditioning!  Los Osos was the perfect solution.   I enjoy my steaks rare, my mother wanted hers so well done that we’d order hers as “cremated.”  My favorite color is blue;  if I tallied all my friends and family, I’d find many other preferences than blue.

Now we get to the number subject.  It amazes me how many people win huge amounts on the lottery drawings by using birth dates of their kids, grandkids – whomever – all birth dates.  I used to buy a ticket a week when we lived down South, as there was a store very close by our home and I’d pop in and buy a ticket.  After a couple years I gave up on all the birthdays in our family – we must have been born on unlucky days.  The most I ever won was $5.00.  So then I went to buying a “Quick Pick” – let the machine pick my numbers for me.  A couple of years of that and I hadn’t even won $5.00.  So ended my gambling career.

Now apply the number game to age.  We’ve all seen and heard kids: I’m almost 16 or 18.  Then I’m 21 and really proud.  From there it goes to approaching 30, I’m almost 40, and when the big 50 hits, it usually hurts most people.  I remember when I turned 50, my son asked me how it felt to be “over the hill.”  I told him I really didn’t feel I was “over the hill heading down!”  His reply: “How many people do you know that live to be 100???”  That almost ruined my day.

However, what I’ve found in my life is your age is just a number.  I’m doing almost as much as I did when I was in my 50s and 60s.  I have a few handicaps – my broken ankle being one of them.  I can’t walk like I used to, but I’m busy every day.  My development of Spasmodic Torticollis in my 50s set me back quite a bit.  I cook and clean, I do volunteer work for my church, which is a BIG job.  I keep writing my stories (good or bad) – but writing seems to be therapy for me.  I still attend my book club and manage to have a lunch out with a friend and/or my husband at least once a week.  So what is the BIG DEAL?  I’m going to be, or should I say “turning” 80 this week.  My daughter and her husband are coming from Montana to have an open house, so everybody can celebrate me getting old.  I don’t know how many grandkids will show up, but whoever shows, that will be fine with me.  I personally thought this birthday might just be another day.  But I guess the big 80 is special, and my daughter informed me she wanted to celebrate happiness and life. So that’s what we’ll be doing, I guess.

I remember when my Mother turned 80, she was living with us.  She had no friends, as when she came from Seattle to move in with us, she left all her sisters (only 2 were living) and friends back in Seattle.  I tried to get her to go to our Senior Center for lunch and cards, as she loved to play cards.  They had a little van that would pick people up and bring them home.  But she would have no part of being with those “old people.”  Consequently, the only friends she had were our friends, who always treated her royally.  The night of her birthday I was to go down to L.A.and listen to John Wooden (former basketball coach of UCLA) give a speech on motivation.  It was a requirement of my job.  So the Saturday before her 80th I called all our friends and told them I was making a big pot of chili and we’d have cake to celebrate my Mom’s birthday.  We had about 10 people show up – everybody liked my chili and they were so kind to come and extend birthday wishes to Gracie.  Then on her actual birthday she didn’t even notice that I didn’t come home for dinner but was away at this important meeting for my job.

You couldn’t pull that trick on me. I know my birthday is March 29th, and I know it’s a Thursday, but my open house is going to be on a Saturday, the 31st.  I don’t think that I’m any smarter than my Mother was – not at all.  I just think times have changed so much since she turned 80 in 1978 and for me in 2012.  The main difference is I know I’m old, but I’m not ready to sit in a rocking chair all day and watch TV.  My Mom would have been so much better off if she had joined those “old people” at the Senior Center and had lunch and played cards.  It would have been something to do.  I don’t lack for things to do and plan to keep it that way for as long as I’m able.

And so for my “What is a Number” title – to me it’s almost meaningless.  Obviously our birthday numbers never brought me great wealth.  So my turning 80 – it’s just another birthday.  I hope to live to see at least 10 more, the good Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise!!!  Maybe in Los Osos I should say “the good Lord willing and the surf remains calm!”

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