March 7, 2012

Thoughts on turning 65

SUSAN TOBIAS, Pinch of Time

---- — Yes, it's true — today's my birthday, and I'm 65, the official "senior citizen" achievement award. How did this happen so darn fast?

When I was a kid, my grandparents were old at 50. They even looked old to me. When I was 50, I didn't see it quite the same way. I was still young, in my book.

Some people have traumatic years going from 39 to 40, "over the hill." Not me, but I was really shook up when I went from 29 to 30. In my mind, I was leaving the fun years behind and had to face being a serious adult the rest of my life.

There has always been some confusion over when you are really a "senior citizen." When AARP wants your yearly membership dues, you are a senior citizen to them at 50. I know quite a few people who were shocked to receive a "birthday card" from AARP telling them "Happy 50th; come join our group."

I have never been quite sure when to ask for a senior discount at restaurants and stores. Sometimes the cashiers look at you like "What? You can't be that old," which is nice. The bad moment comes when they look at you and say, "Would you like our senior discount?" and you're only 39.

I'm what is called a "baby boomer," one of thousands of babies born when soldiers came home from World War II and started their lives over with a wife, children and a home. In my little hometown of Westville, we had our own "baby boom" within a five-mile stretch that year: From December (1946) to November, the town gained Cheryl Fleury, David Stark, Vernita Shane, Linda Stark and me.

My father, Artie McGibbon, was discharged from the U.S. Army on March 7, 1946, and for me to be born exactly one year later pleased him mightily. We have a picture of him holding me, with the name "Tootsie" written on it. At 9 pounds-plus, I was a chubby "Tootsie," to say the least.

About a month before I was born, a huge snowstorm hit northern New York. The snowplow was called to clear the very rural Sulphur Springs Road, smack on the Canadian border, because Linda was making her debut, half a mile west of our farm.

Before the storm, just in case my mother went into labor, my dad cozied up the pung (a box sleigh) with straw, set my mother and my aunt (Janet) in the middle, covered them up and hooked up the Caterpillar tractor for a sleigh ride across the fields to stay with my grandparents on the main road. When I didn't make my appearance, Mum went back home, waiting nearly a month, until March 7, when I was delivered at Alice Hyde Hospital in Malone.

I grew up with Cheryl as a playmate, having tea in her little white playhouse, and I went to junior high and high school with Linda and Vernita. At one time or another, we all hung around together whether at a square dance at the Westville Grange Hall, 4-H meetings, church suppers or county fairs. I am related to Linda and David. Their grandfathers, Allen Stark and Anson Stark, were brothers to my great-grandmother Lillian Stark.

When I was 50, I used to wonder what I would look and act like when I reached retirement age. White hair? No. Support stockings? No. Black lace-up shoes like my grandmother wore? No. (But they are in style again.) Rocking chair? No. Nothing to do? A resounding no!

So life at 65 isn't so bad after all; but it sure seems like only yesterday that I was 12 years old, riding my bike without a care in the world and wondering what life was all about. I know I'm not alone. There are thousands of "baby boomers" out there celebrating the same birthday this year as I am. Happy birthday to us. We've made our mark on the world, and we're not done yet.

One last thought, as always, please be kind to each other. The world needs more kindness.

Susan Tobias lives in Plattsburgh with her husband, Toby. She has been a Press-Republican newsroom employee since 1977. The Tobiases have six children, 18 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. They enjoy traveling to Maine and Colorado, and in her spare time, Susan loves to research local history and genealogy. Reach her by email at