What’s not to love

The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.
–Albert Einstein

The summer I was twelve years old was an idyll that seemed to stretch on forever. I remember bicycles and blue gills, sand and sunburn, row-boats, comic books, an old army blanket on the front lawn; and, when things got too hot, we retreated to a cool basement and spent the afternoon playing board games. The summer of 2010, my sixty-sixth summer, seems scarcely to have arrived and already it’s Labor Day. Who said “Time flies like an arrow?” It doesn’t matter. Groucho Marx made it funny and linguistically interesting when he added, “Fruit flies like a banana.”

For me, life has been flying like a rocket. It just keeps accelerating, and I suppose one day sooner or later the fuel will run out. I’ll let you know what happens then.

When I turned fifty, the AARP came calling. That was fifteen years ago and they sneaked into my life via junk mail. At fifty, I wasn’t really into the possibilities of AARP. For older people and our interests, AARP’s an effective lobby, sort of like ACORN before Andrew Breitbart and Fox News took them down. Still, long ago when the AARP solicitations began to appear, I did not take them seriously. Now the message is more immediate. I’m on Medicare. I’m paying attention. For most of my life the plight of people living on fixed incomes in the face of inflation was academic. Now I am one!

I’ve reached a time in my life when I can soak a fishing line from the bank of a river, sit on the back porch in the breeze and read a novel, or hang out with my cronies playing cards and talking smart. I certainly intend to do plenty of that! I’ve always been good at hanging out, and as for naps in the afternoon… no new thing. “When in doubt, get horizontal,” is for me a rule to live by. But what about the AARP? Somebody has to help steer. To the extent that AARP engages in advocacy for older people, I want my voice to be heard. To the extent that AARP takes positions on matters that matter to me–things like energy and the environment, poverty, nutrition, and social justice–I hope I can influence those positions. I’ve earned the right to participate. Of course, the quality of my participation is up to me.

AARP is looking for a few bloggers to cover their “Orlando@50+” gathering September 30 through October 2 in Orlando. They ask “What do you love about life after 50?” And I answer, “What’s not to love?” In the last few years, my dad had a stroke, my business collapsed, I had a back injury and a heart attack… if I threw in a train wreck, a prison, and a pick-up truck I’d have the makings of a great country western song. But it would just be one song among many. There are love songs in that jukebox, some blue grass, some get down rock and roll, some long-hair music too… rhapsodies, sonatas, and even a symphony or two. What I’ve been loving about this older age is the enjoyment I feel in slowing down a little. I’m glad to do some wood working, happy to tinker with the rototiller. I appreciate a shared meal, or a walk in the garden with Beth. I’m grateful too for acceptance I can now bring to bear on darker circumstances. The sun will come out tomorrow. What’s not to love?

I’m trying to blog my way to the AARP Orlando@50 conference. This blog post is an entry in their competition to find the official blogger to travel to and cover the event. Find out more about the conference here.

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18 comments on “What’s not to love
  1. Fran Ransley says:

    The cool basement! Fishing and reading comics, hunting turtles and frogs in the marsh, trying to steer a canoe. Going to Madison on the train with my friends. I remember those idyllic summers as way, way too short.
    I do love your essay. Your writing is certainly as good, and runs a lot deeper than anything I’ve read in the AARP magazine, though your tone is consistent enough with their content. I hope you win the prize and get a free trip to Florida.
    As to AARP, I have quite a bit to say on the matter. I am gonna get wordy here.
    AARP stuff turned up in the mailbox when I began taking my PERS retirement. At first I tossed it all in the recycle bin. Then I got curious and joined as it was only $12.50. I liked the magazine all right, though it seemed a bit heavy with scary senior scams and governmental injustices. I didn’t always agree with their lobbying.
    But what I really didn’t like was the continual bombardment of junk mail that did not abate and in fact escalated after I joined. I was not interested in any of the repeated offers of life insurance, car insurance, etc. that kept on coming.
    Finally I got annoyed. These junk mail solicitations were filling a couple of brown paper shopping bags in a month’s time. This was wasteful. Thinking of all the forests that were being destroyed and toxic ink used to make stuff that would only be thrown away, I decided not to renew my membership.
    The junk mail continued, increased if anything. I began returning the “no postage required” envelopes with notes asking them to take me off their mailing list. Possibly when they reach their destination these return envelopes are opened by robots or chimpanzees. Anyway, I didn’t get the response that I’d requested, i.e. cessation of junk mail.
    Then another renewal form arrived, thinly disguised as a “personal letter,” ostensibly from some CEO, begging me to renew my membership. This time I composed a letter to the CEO stating that I considered the ongoing barrage of junk mail to be a form of harassment, and that I could not support an organization that encouraged such wanton wastefulness. I tucked it in the return envelope and mailed it back to AARP.
    When the auto, life and other insurance solicitations arrived, I did the same thing, emphasizing TAKE ME OFF YOUR MAILING LIST with red ink. I believe they’ve finally gotten the message, because it’s been a while since I’ve gotten any new offers.
    During the time I was engaged in my mail-battle with AARP and their subsidiaries, a close friend was dying of cancer. He and his wife were looking for some sort of life insurance so that she would have a little extra money to cover the bills after he died.
    I said, “Well, AARP keeps sending me these life insurance offers and they say anyone can get it without a medical exam…”
    My friend cut me off. “What I don’t like about AARP,” he said, “Is that they take your membership money and spend it on their political agenda.” He added that because of this, he would not consider applying for AARP life insurance.
    What he meant and did not need to state, was that as an arch conservative who worshipped Ronald Reagan, the NRA and the free market, he felt that AARP’s political agenda was much too liberal.
    As a seedy old liberal who once thought Che Guevara was really, really cute, I considered AARP’s political agenda to be much too conservative.
    So even though our politics were so far apart that they almost came full circle and met at the back door, we could agree on that one thing, that AARP had used our membership dues to promote a political agenda that neither of us supported.

  2. Hi Fran. I’ve never aggressively pushed back at the marketing material and the junk mail, but it certainly does pile up around here before it hits the recycle bin. I’m presently an AARP member so I have myself to blame for the dead trees. The fact that they’re encouraging blogging at their annual gathering suggests that it won’t be long before pixels replace wood pulp in their marketing or Relationship Management or whatever they might call it. I’d rather get spam in my email than junk in the US Mail.

  3. Don Harvey says:

    Hi Frank. I caught this post a couple days ago but was in the midst of a wild Labor Day weekend in Miami South Beach with no time to respond. I was in the water a lot but no fishing lines were soaked in my vicinity. I did notice a lot of corks bobbing in the surf but I think they were mostly made of silicone. The only nap I took was on the beach after a third Mojito. I’ll catch some real sleep now that I’m back in WI.
    The only thing I know about AARP is that they recently named the town of Boquette in Panama one of the five most attractive non-US retirement destinations. If this results in some sort of old fogey stampede to the place of my planned retirement I’m going to be majorly pissed off. In the meantime, unlike you, I’m not yet ready to cash in my chips so I’ve yet to declare my membership. Good luck on the Orlando meeting. I’m sure of one thing…they won’t find a better writer.

  4. Jon Husband says:

    I sure like being over 50. Much better than being 25 or 35 .. and I’d still go back to those ages if I could.

    I keep trying to stave off some things (which is why I swim a lot), but mainly it just amuses me that I have that conceit.

    One of the things I am enjoying about being in my mid-50’s is that I spend a fair bit of time each week with my 92 year-old father. That is more enjoyable and rewarding than when he and I were both younger. It’s more work, but I am wiser and he is “softer” than he used to be.

    I’m looking forward to public transit being cheaper for me in less than 10 years, and continue to work on getting my monthly overhead to the point where Canada’s answer to Social Security pays all my bills whilst I float down a river, or play cards, or read some good books, etc.

    I am thinking that it’s also important to begin preparing to adapt to even more change. The next 20 or 30 years look like it’s going to be one hell of a ride.

  5. Don, AARP does make Boquete sound sweet… (I’m getting an incredible deja vu from this. Did I write something recently about a sweet off-shore destination or is my brain just misfiring again? One never knows.)

    Jon, I hope your Canadian social entitlements for old people don’t get washed away in the tidal wave of the American economic collapse. Here in extreme southern Ontario, we’ve already seen some erosion. The annual cost of living adjustment on Social Security income was suspended this year. The Marcus Cineplex in nearby Fitchburg has eliminated “senior discounts.” A movie and a snack for Beth and me now cost the same as three months of a Netflix subscription. Sadder still was the elimination of the senior discount from the menu at the Deforest Family Restaurant, a place where the waitresses aren’t know for their arithmetic skills. Some mornings we would get the bill and discover that, with the discount applied, the restaurant actually owed us money. Those days are gone. (There’s a joke in there… Q: Whatever happened to those big breakfasts at the Deforest Family Restaurant, the bacon, the eggs, the hash browned potatoes, the buttered toast and jam? A: That’s all behind us.) Sorry, but the old jokes are still the best jokes I think.

  6. Don Harvey says:

    Panama discounts literally everything for retirees and in a major way. I spoke to a guy who got 50 cents off his Big Mac because he is over 65. Big breakfast in Boquete with juice and coffee — maybe $2. Great Panama City restaurants with incredible seafood and service and a good bottle of wine — $50 for two. Expats live well on SS.

  7. Frank,
    Rocket ship trips…Ralph’s been sending Alice on one for years. We might as well sit back and enjoy a little star-gazing (or navel gazing, you choose).

    But, I do “get it”.

    You’d be a great blogger for AARP’s event!

  8. Pattie, thanks for the compliment. I suspect I’ll be chosen when pigs fly.

    • Watch for falling spareribs…

      • I googled around looking at the competition and frankly Pattie, you’re it. There were a few others who might deserve a shot at it and will do an okay job, but you and me? We’re hot. They’re not.

        (After that insufferable ego display I’m invoking all the superstitions I can find that will restore good fortune to someone who should obviously have knocked on wood before saying something like that…)

  9. Darlene says:

    Hey, Frank, good for you. Congratulations on a winner of an essay. I agree, what’s not to love.

  10. Thanks Darlene! (Also, that’s definitely not a forsythia… pretty picture, but not a forsythia. I’ll ask around.)

  11. Kathi W says:

    Got here re Ronni’s TGB. Loved your essay (and the others). Took me back to precious memories of summers in the woodsy small town I grew up in on the Columbia River, riding bikes endlessly to the public pool and playing in the basement ‘rumpus room’ with neighbor kids. In the blink of an eye, school levels passed, I sepnt thirty years in higher education, and now five years of retirement, the last of which seem to be full of new challenges. Your attitude is great. Have fun in Orlando! Cheers, ~K

  12. Thanks, Kathi! Orlando? Shasta? Orlando? Shasta? Hmmm… I might be tempted to trade places!

  13. Jon Husband says:

    This Friday I’m flying to NYC to go to my 40th high school reunion, but am going all the way across the country so that I can visit the farms and fields of western New Jersey where I grew up.

    Boy oh boy, does life ever go by fast.

    • I hope you have a great time with old friends from high school, Jon; and, I hope the fields of New Jersey retain some of the shape that fills your memories. In other words, I hope for not too many strip malls.

      I was reminded about how fast life goes by tonight at a house party for our Senate candidate, Russ Feingold. Senators serve six year terms and I’ve voted for Russ three times already. Eighteen years! (One wonders why the guy isn’t a millionaire yet. Are there no lobbyists to help him out?)

  14. joared says:

    Congratulations on being selected to be a blogger at Orlando’s AARP conference! I’m a little late to the party but really glad you’ll be joining Cowtown Pattie there. I’ve long enjoyed reading what you write, now hope you’ll have an even wider audience.

    This piece you’ve written really captures my experience being drawn into AARP. I drifted away from them for a while based on a position they took supporting an earlier administration’s health legislation years ago that I opposed. Later they acknowledged they made a mistake. All the more reason why we need to be sure they know what we think so they can act more appropriately. Since they’re really ‘hearing’ us now, and with your and Pattie’s selection as bloggers at this Conference, I’m ready to re-establish my relationship with AARP.

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