by Larry P. Johnson
(Reprinted from "The San Antonio Express-News," Aug. 28, 2013.)
Now that I am 80, I can go to my doctor's office and flirt with the receptionists and let them call me "Sweetie."
I can work as many hours a week as I like and not have my Social Security benefits reduced. That is, if I can find someone who wants to hire me.
I can sleep until noon, have a container of yogurt and a cup of ginger root tea and go back to sleep in my rocking chair. That is, unless my son calls and asks me to baby-sit his boys.
I can walk the 3/4 mile (in the street because we have no sidewalks in our neighborhood) to my Valero corner store to get a bear claw and coffee — while hoping and praying that drivers who pass by me will not be texting on their cell phones instead of watching for pedestrians like me.
I can show off my culinary skills by preparing a sumptuous meal of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans, and then have it for supper for the next five days because I don't know how to cook for just one person.
During my 80 years, I have acquired a great many useful skills: I know how to dial a rotary telephone, although I can't seem to find many around any more; do multiplication tables in my head ("You're kidding!"); use an Olivetti portable typewriter ("What's that?") and use my imagination to make up stories to tell to my grandchildren. ("What's imagination, Grandpa?")
I know how to make peanut butter fudge, really good guacamole and old-fashioned split-pea soup with a ham bone.
And I am very proud and excited to tell you that I was sworn in by the Texas Secretary of State last month as a member of the Texas Silver-Haired Legislature, a non-partisan non-profit organization that seeks to identify the issues and problems faced by seniors like myself, develops workable solutions and then advocates for adoption of these solutions by the Texas legislature. It is really important to feel useful, valued and part of something.
I don't know how many more years, months or days I may have. Nobody does. But it's good to be 80. As someone smarter than me said, "Being alive to celebrate your birthday sure beats the alternative." And that's how I see it.