For the past year, my husband, Henry,
has been humming the Beatles' song, “When I’m 64.” In a profound state of anxiety,
he sings: When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now, will you still
be sending me a valentine, birthday greetings, bottle of wine?
Of course, I reassure him. Henry
has been losing his hair ever since I married him, 25 years ago. Given our difficult and complicated twins,
I’m happy he’s only lost his hair, and that what’s underneath—including a great
sense of humor—is still intact. I enjoy
stroking what’s left of Henry’s salt and pepper hair, now cropped fashionably
“Your hair is so soft, it feels
like a dachshund.”
Henry sighs. “It used to be my best feature. When I was in college, it was jet black and
down to my shoulders. My fraternity
brothers called me ‘Wings.’”
I didn’t meet Henry till he was in
his late 30s. “I always thought your
best feature was your smile.”
He flashes it briefly, before going
back to fretting. In the past few
years, Henry has had several surgeries on his face and leg to remove skin
cancer. It’s too late to undo the sun damage from all those years at the beach,
before anyone worried about skin cancer.
Now Henry laments all the unexpected bills
from the Mohs surgeon and the plastic surgeon.
How bad does his nose look, he
wants to know?
It looks fantastic considering the
amount of work that was done. Nobody
else would notice.
Can I see the scar on the side of
Barely, I reply. And only if I’m looking for it.
It’s not only the physical signs of
aging that freak my husband out. For several years, he’s gotten a senior
citizen discount at the movies, but he still cringes when saying: “One senior citizen, one adult, please.”
of all the money we’re saving,” I remind him.
“But it makes me feel so old.”
not so old. You look a lot younger than
your age.” Easy for me to say. I’m still
in my 50s.
Henry’s worst blow is losing his life insurance. Well, not losing it exactly. Last month my husband received a letter from
our insurance carrier saying that we could keep the policy, but the premium
would increase from $2,300 to $26,900 per year, going up ten thousand percent! Not exactly “Happy 65th
“Maybe I should shoot myself now,” Henry
Figuring out when to collect social
security has also been a depressing prospect. Collect sooner and your check is smaller. Wait longer and get bigger monthly payments,
but then you have to live longer to come out ahead. And there’s always the prospect that the
system will go bankrupt sooner than expected. Henry crunches the numbers with me and speculates on his mortality. Ever the pessimist, he tentatively decides to
collect sooner. I just want to change
How should we celebrate the
beginning of Henry’s “golden years?”
Retirement is out of the question.
We’re paying for an unanticipated fifth year of college for Sarah, and although
Max just graduated, he has no job and lives at home. Young adults can be very expensive to feed
and clothe, Henry and I discovering.
For his 65th, Henry
doesn’t want a party like he had at 60.
He considers Atlantic City or another casino resort, but our kids don’t want
to go, and it’s expensive. What my
husband really wants is a new watch. But, alas, he’s not retiring in the good old
days when it was the custom to honor a valued, long-time employee with a gold
watch. In fact, he’s fortunate to be at
a law firm without a mandatory retirement age.
In today’s challenging economy—forget any parting gifts or mementos—partners
at law firms are just happy if they are able to receive their capital
investment back without delay. Henry longs for a miracle like a winning
lottery ticket or Publisher’s Clearinghouse ringing our doorbell, so we don’t
have to pay for his birthday/non-retirement gift. Instead he settles for a 30% discount from a
jeweler in North Dakota. We invite a few
close friends to join us with Max and Sarah at one of our favorite restaurants.
In the car ride to the restaurant,
there’s tension. Unspoken, but simmering in the air, is the
fact that last weekend Max lost his wallet, driver’s license and a $40.00 Metro
card. It all fell into the ADHD
graveyard along with previous cell phones, keys, and broken laptops. Even worse, the past two days his room has
smelled as though a large rodent died there, but I’m hoping it’s just mildew
from the wet towel on his carpet. In the taxi, Max tells Henry he is going out
with friends later and needs a Metro card.“ How much money do you have?” Henry asks.
“You can’t meet your friends in
Brooklyn with $3.00.” Henry looks at me, holds out two fingers and I nod. My
husband hands our son $20.00.
But I can’t help exploding: “You had nothing to do all day and didn’t go
to your ATM? How can you walk out of the
house with $3.00 at age 22?”
“Mom, don’t you want to have a pleasant evening?” Max is a deft
When we reach the restaurant, my son
is still angry. He tries to complain to
a family friend who—unbeknownst to Max—already asked his own difficult, adult
son to move out... “Your complaints are not falling on sympathetic ears," I say
“It’s my birthday,” Henry complains. “Can’t you two stop?”
Using his brilliant lawyerly skill
and a little Jewish guilt, Henry negotiates a truce. He smiles at me and Sarah. “You both look beautiful tonight. I’ve got two
Sarah smiles coquettishly. “And you’re a handsome Daddeo.”
“Yes, he is.” I squeeze his hand. After we sit down at the table, I offer to
share the roast chicken for two, the
dish I know he wants. Max decides to be charming and funny and tells a new
stand-up joke, as he happily wolfs down a basket of freshly baked bread. We
drink two excellent bottles of wine, and everyone is in good spirits. After we
finish the main course, Henry opens his presents and is delighted to receive a
tie he doesn’t need to return and a messenger bag he’d wanted, but wouldn’t buy
for himself. Everyone compliments Henry
on his new watch.
The non-retirement watch gleams on
his wrist as he eats a bite of apple tart.
“Wear it in good health,” we all tell him.
I can still hear that Beatles’ tune
in my mind, but I want to add a few words. Yes, I’ll
still need you , yes I’ll still feed you when I’m 64.
Labels: ADHD, age 65, aging, Beatles songs, birthdays, college, family issues, golden years, law firms, life insurance, milestones, mortality, parenting, retirement, senior citizens, social security, twins, young adults