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On being 71

A few weeks from my 71st birthday, here are some thoughts.
Everybody has arthritis. Dr. Gerard Malanga, an outstanding doctor who advised me on a painful shoulder, said, “Everybody has arthritis after a certain age. The question is, ‘Does it hurt?’” My arthritis hurts only occasionally, and for that I credit my other best-doctor-in-the-world, Volodymyr Buhayenko. He turned me onto kelp, which dissolves calcium deposits. When I take kelp, my arthritis is under control; when I don’t, it hurts. I searched long and hard for excellent doctors and value them highly.
I am my own responsibility. Even with excellent doctors, lawyers, accountants, and significant others, I alone am responsible for my own health, finances, and future. After 70 years of experience, I have tools for success and survival and must keep them sharp.
Nature is sly. She diverts resources from the now-useless reproductive system, but leaves enough for pleasure and fun. A woman friend just had a hysterectomy to cure prolapse. Men must deal with floppy erections, but they can have orgasms anyway. All of this was a big surprise, and I wish I had known more sooner.
Politics matter. Around 60, Social Security and Medicare started breathing on me, just a little breath from a distance, but it felt good. I could begin to wind down from a full-time job. Though I am healthy, most of the time, the rigors of a full-time job would be a challenge. I still work, but now it is because I am stimulated by my job. Until the day I die, I will feel the safety net beneath me. What a relief.
Deal with enemies. Memories of betrayal and cruelty can ruin a dotage. Enemies must be carefully packaged and placed somewhere mostly inaccessible. Every once in a while, they can be unwrapped for a good reason.
Death is okay. Vietnam, Australia/New Zealand, China, Japan — if we want to go, we must go soon. My late minister, Forrest Church gave a set of sermons in which he told us how to be gravely ill and die. He said, “We always die in the middle of something.” The alternative, doing nothing, is to be avoided. An old friend dying of stomach cancer said to his wife, “This isn’t so bad.”
A good nursing home is not so bad either. The people there share your humor and your taste in music. You can relax – if you get sick or stub your toe, they’ll take care of it. There are no stairs.
“Your children are not your children/They are the sons and daughters of life itself…They live in the house of tomorrow.”  So writes Khalil Gibran. There are things we can do at whatever age to build the house of tomorrow for our children, grandchildren, unknown descendants.. Recycle. Save your great recipes. Share games, thoughts, and outings that will become their lifetime memories. Soften their blows. We can do that at any age, but unless you’ve signed out, you’ve got more clout when you are 70. People will assume you know more than they do.