Turning 65: Good, Bad and Scary

On March 9 at 4:10 a.m., I will turn 65. It’s a good thing. It’s a bad thing. It’s a scary thing.


I will be eligible for every senior discount that exists. No worries about whether you have to be 50, 55, 60 or 65. Everybody gets the break at 65, although here on the Oregon coast, with so many retirees, you don’t see a lot of senior discounts because the businesses would all go broke. National Parks pass, here I come.

It’s also good because I will be free from people thinking I need to stop messing with my writing and music and get a real job. I am not retired, have no plans to retire, will write and play until I either die or lose the ability, God forbid. But for those folks who just don’t understand the artistic life, I can say bug off, I’m 65, I can do whatever I want.

Besides, the newspaper business for which I was trained has disintegrated to the point I barely recognize it. Plus, do I want to cover the news in this Trumpian era? I don’t think I could keep my opinions to myself anymore.

Not that I might not need to actually get another job, finances being what they are. (My father thinks I should get a job because to him writing still doesn’t count as work. I’m never going to win that battle with him.) I worry that young employers might think I’m too old. I’m not old, kids; I’m experienced. My resume goes back to the days of manual typewriters and black and white film, and that’s a good thing.


Turning 65 is bad because it means I’m old. I can’t deny the wrinkles, the gray hairs, or the memories that stretch back before a lot of people were born. I can deal with all that, but I wince at the thought that other people see me as old. That’s what really bugs me. I especially worry about folks who classify me as too old to write a bestseller or to play wonderful music. If I do succeed, they will single me out as an anomaly. Look at what this sweet old lady can do. Gah!

How old is old? With no kids or grandkids to mark the generations, I feel much younger than 65 most of the time. Our vision of “old” changes as we age. When you’re a kid, your 40-year-old parents are ancient. If you’re 80, looking at me turning 65, you think I’m just a kid. My maternal grandmother, who died at 80, refused to go to the senior center because it was full of old people. Exactly.

If I’m lucky, 65 is just a new beginning, with lots of years ahead, 20.2 according to most life-expectancy charts. But nobody knows. Grandpa Fagalde lived to 98. My dad is almost 95. His cousin made it to 96. I could live another 30 or more years. Or I could be gone tomorrow.

My mother had just turned 75 when she died. My husband was 73. My father’s mother was only 58. Grandpa Avina was 66.The obituaries are full of people in their 60s and their 90s. It’s all a crapshoot.

I’m moving into these older years in a great wave of baby boomers. Wonder Woman Lynda Carter, Sting, and Meat Loaf are all 65. Paul McCartney is turning 75 this year. President Trump is 70, and he hasn’t grown up yet. Helen Mirren, 73, is my new idol. Check out this list of hot seniors. Here’s another one. Our bodies might be aging, but our spirits are as young as ever.


It’s scary because I’m petrified of going on Medicare. Blue Shield and I worked well together, as long as I kept giving them $500 a month, plus deductibles, co-pays and exclusions. It was better insurance than a lot of people have, and I’m grateful that I got to keep the insurance after Fred died. Medicare confuses me, and it doesn’t help to keep hearing dire predictions about the whole system falling apart, going broke, or falling under the hyperactive pen of our new president. I have already learned that my annual gynecology exam may not be covered and my frequent chiropractic visits for my messed-up back will definitely not be covered. If Dr. S. could just put everything in place, then seal me in wax . . .

Medicare has Parts A, B, C and D and something called the “donut hole,” which is not a delicious bit of pastry but a black hole into which you fall if you collect too many prescriptions. For a few months, my phone rang constantly with folks ostensibly wanting to help me with my Medicare questions. Actually they wanted to sell me supplemental insurance plans, but Blue Shield and I will continue a reduced relationship. How much that will cost, I have no idea. How much Medicare will cost, I have no idea. Apparently I have to wait until my first paycheck in March to see whether turning 65 will be good or bad for the Lick economy. Please God, let it be good.

As a fully blossomed senior, I expect to hear more and more of the doctors’ theme song “At your age . . .” Meaning, “You’re old, so you can’t expect all your parts to work or me to waste time fixing them.” I think about my battered VW bug with its 120,000 miles and how it was literally held together with duct tape and prayers. Guess I’m lucky I still run. Not very far, but I run.

To be honest, if some young bloke offers to carry my load or give me his seat on the bus, I will accept it gratefully because my back hurts and I’m tired. But give me a minute’s rest, and I’m ready to go again. 65? Dad was mowing his lawn yesterday at 94.

You can get Social Security now, you say. No. Not yet, although I do receive a portion of my late husband’s Social Security as a widow’s benefit. People my age, born in 1952, must wait until they’re 66 for full Social Security benefits. Assuming we still have Social Security by then. Maybe we should call it Social Insecurity.

I’m also scared that I might end up celebrating my birthday alone. Did that last year, don’t ever want to do it again. All I need is some people and cake. Got to have cake. Chocolate or red velvet. Who wants to join me on March 9? I’m thinking The Chalet for lunch because it has cake and a senior discount or the Drift Inn for dinner because fabulous musician Ian Smith is playing there that night and the food is amazing. Maybe I’ll do both. Who wants to join me? You don’t have to buy me a thing, just help me celebrate.

How does turning 65 look to you, whether it’s decades ahead, coming up fast or already ancient history? I welcome your comments.



Looking Back at John Lennon

Lately I have been immersed in the Beatles, especially John Lennon. I just finished reading a 661-page biography titled Lennon: The Man, the Myth, the Music – The Definitive Life by Tim Riley. Wow. What a long time ago it all was. The surviving Beatles are in their 70s, and I’m almost 64, the age Paul McCartney wrote about in his song, “When I’m 64.” I had no clue about so many things in the Beatlemania days. I was in junior high when the Beatles first came to America in 1964 and in my early years of college when they broke up. Plus I was in love with Paul. John, kind of rough and sarcastic, didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t pay much attention to what he did post-Beatles. By the time Lennon was shot to death outside his New York apartment, I was in the process of divorcing my first husband and working as a reporter for the Pacifica Tribune. I had bigger things to think about than whose records were at the top of the charts.

I was so young and stupid in those days when I was begging my mother for the latest Beatles album, sold at $1.99 for mono and $2.99 for stereo. Oh please, I just have to have it. Once purchased, the album revolved on the stereo in the living room—the only one we had—while I sat with my head against the speaker, singing along. When not attached to the speaker, I was listening to my palm-sized transistor radio. I knew every word and every note of every song. I still do.

I still have my Beatles records, and a few CDs that came out later. The recordings were treasures to be acquired a little at a time. But now in this crazy Internet world, I have discovered that I can find almost everything the Beatles ever recorded online at YouTube, Amazon Prime or iTunes. I can read about a song in the book, go online and listen to it immediately. I can read about a TV interview from the ‘70s, and there it is on YouTube. I have downloaded a ton of Beatles music on my tablet for free and can listen to it anytime I want. It blows my mind.

I have read McCartney bios, but this is my first Lennon book. In recent years as an adult, I have come to admire Lennon’s talents as singer, songwriter and creative person. While I was living my life and obsessing over Paul, I missed so much. Where was I when John was making multiple comebacks and appearing all over American TV? What was I doing the day he was killed? Why wasn’t I paying attention?

Riley’s book is loaded with information, not just about Lennon and the other Beatles but about the times they lived in and the places where they lived. He gives a whole history of rock ‘n roll, linking Lennon’s work back to the musicians who inspired it and ahead to the ones who followed. He offers details behind every song and every album, how it was written, how it was arranged and recorded, who wrote which passages and what they were really about. He shares the times Lennon was drunk or stoned, the times he acted out, and the twisted childhood that tormented him all his life. I don’t know if I would have wanted to know all that when I was a teenage fan experiencing my first burst of vicarious lust years before I would interact with men in real life, but it’s fascinating now.

The research job here is incredible. Riley must have read everything ever written about Lennon, interviewed everyone who ever knew him, and taken in every bit of film, video, vinyl and digital media. Somehow he managed to pull it all together into a very readable book that I had to put down occasionally due to its massive size but didn’t want to stop until I knew the whole story. Now I’m playing Lennon music on my record player and my Kindle Fire, thinking wow, how did I miss all this?

There are many other books about John Lennon. It seems everyone who was a Beatle or knew a Beatle has written a book. I’ll never read them all, but I can’t imagine any of them could be as complete as this one. Bravo, Tim Riley.

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