On Turning Eighty

Most of you know that last September I turned eighty years old.  I never believed I would live this long what with being a type 1 diabetic for more than half a century.  My mom was 43 when she passed.  My father, youngest brother and JoAnn in their fifties.  Cousins on my mom’s side passing well before sixty.

Yet here I am.  Eighty years old.  A great party was being planned to celebrate until we learned of Rob’s illness.  My daughters, Clark, two nephews and I had a quiet dinner together.

Here we are in February, and I am a third of the way on the road to eighty-one.

When one reaches the great milestone, one becomes keenly aware that time is running out. The Social Security Administration actuaries put one’s life expectancy for an eighty-year-old in single digits.  No more decades save for those who reach ninety.    Seven or eight more years maybe.  That is a sobering reality.

For most everyone living today, life is oriented to the future.  First date.  Learning to drive, Starting school. Graduating.  First real job.  Marriage.  Children. A new town. Travel.  Retirement.   The future seemed limitless.

Now, I am living with more endings than beginnings. I have more memories than dreams, more recollections than anticipations.  The circle gets smaller as family members and friends pass away faster than one can acquire new ones.

Diminishment is the daily reality.  Less energy.  Less to do.  Less responsibility.  Less influence. Diminished mobility.  A smaller circle of loved one.  Accumulating endings and fewer beginnings.

While I am still fit enough to live on my own, I am aware that frailty is just around the corner.  I would rather pass suddenly than go through years of frailty and cognitive loss.  Better to be watching Stephen Colbert alone at midnight and get that funny pain in my chest than lie in a nursing home for half a decade.

While it all sounds depressing, it doesn’t have to be.  It can be a time of deep reflection and a reordering of priorities.  If there are things you need to do and time is short, you need to do them now.

Now is he time to make sure that the people you love know that you love them.  Now is the time to make up for your past shortcomings.   In reality, the present moment is all any of us have for certain. As with most things, time increases in value as it decreases in quantity. In a sense, each moment is a new opportunity, even for a new beginning.

You watch as the young, perhaps even your children or grandchildren make the same absurd mistakes you did when you were young.  There is nothing you can say or do about it except to eventually realize that you too were once an idiot.  They too will lose their illusions though hopefully not the joy of living and unquenchable curiosity.

“If at eighty you’re not a cripple or an invalid, if you have your health, if you still enjoy a good walk, a good meal (with all the trimmings), if you can sleep without first taking a pill, if birds and flowers, mountains and sea still inspire you, you are a most fortunate individual and you should get down on your knees morning and night and thank the good Lord for his savin’ and keepin’ power. If you are young in years but already weary in spirit, already on the way to becoming an automaton, it may do you good to say to your boss — under your breath, of course — “Fuck you, Jack! You don’t own me!” … If you can fall in love again and again, if you can forgive your parents for the crime of bringing you into the world, if you are content to get nowhere, just take each day as it comes, if you can forgive as well as forget, if you can keep from growing sour, surly, bitter and cynical, man you’ve got it half licked.” 

Henry Miller


I don’t recall which day it was
of the thousands I have lived
when I realized that nothing lasts
and what a shame it was
that perfection is for just a moment
before the downward slope begins.

I don’t know when that moment was
when the world was mine
and you were mine
and all would last tomorrow and tomorrow
and  I was at my height

for just a moment, then it passed
unrealized ‘till looking back
that nothing lasts forever

The sun is lower now
the days numbered, the shadows darker
as options fade to become commands;
no longer so distant the flashing red
above the exit door.

“All your problems can be solved
it you will just give up the ghost!
Your arms are sagging flesh
teeth in a glass
Can fantasies still stir the root cellar?
Don’t you hear the dulcet tones of Gabriel’s trumpet?”

I will not go gentle through the portal
into that good night.
I will warm my face in the September sun, smiling
while  searching the memories of all my days
for that moment when all was perfect.

Frank S.




About toritto

I was born during year four of the reign of Emperor Tiberius Claudius on the outskirts of the empire in Brooklyn. I married my high school sweetheart, the girl I took to the prom and we were together for forty years until her passing in 2004. We had four kids together and buried two together. I had a successful career in Corporate America (never got rich but made a living) and traveled the world. I am currently retired in the Tampa Bay metro area and live alone. One of my daughters is close by and one within a morning’s drive. They call their pops everyday. I try to write poetry (not very well), and about family. Occasionally I will try a historical piece relating to politics. :-)
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9 Responses to On Turning Eighty

  1. beetleypete says:

    I am 71 in March, so 10 years behind you. I didn’t expect to see 70, let alone the years after. I can identify with so much of your post, especially not living too long to need care in a home for oldies. Would I have done anything differently? Just one thing.

    I would have saved a hell of a lot more money to make these older years more comfortable. Despite no mortgage, and living a decent life, I cannot afford to change my old (currently broken-down) car for a newer one, and any unexpected house repairs means a big dip into the savings.

    My wife is almost 10 years younger than me, so I am unlikely to be around to solve her problems when she gets them. I worked in decent jobs for the public good, and I was kind to people. That’s enough of an epitaph for me.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toritto says:

      I know how you feel Pete. I have lived 18 years now on a relatively fixed income. These last few years of inflation have made me much more careful of what I spend. Recent family emergencies have also put a strain on the budget.

      Oh well. Not a whole lot one can do about it at this point. Put on a sweater when its chilly rather than turn up the heat. Sweat a little more this summer. Trade a steak for hamburger, pork or chicken.

      Best from Florida

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My mom is 84 and is still going strong despite being a cancer survivor. All the things you say here are true and you have chosen the best path of enjoying every moment. Life seems to race past once you start working, so we need to make a conscious choice to slow down sometimes and enjoy the small things that bring us joy. A most pleasurable read 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Don Ostertag says:

    Welcome to the club.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Jennie says:

    This was a beautiful collection of words and thoughts. May I always have an eye to the sun, and an open heart. Best to you, Frank.

    Liked by 1 person

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