Vartabedian: The Monumental Pomp of Age: 70

I thought 50 was devastating, until I reached 60. Now that I just turned 70, I’ve begun a new cycle in my life.

It seems we measure our existence by decades. I thought 40 was “over the hill” until I saw people twice that age looking as fit as a fiddle.

Then came 50.

“Dad, do you realize you’ve been around for HALF a century?” one of my kids remarked. “How does that feel?”

“Like an old shark,” I told the child. “I can still be a menace so be kind about my years.”

Maybe it’s all a state of mind, I keep reminding myself. A man’s age is only chronology. The tell tale sign is how old you really feel—and how well you are feeling it. Age doesn’t really matter unless you’re wine or cheese.

There are other benefits to turning 70. Maybe my kids will open and close my camp for me every summer.

That means crawling under the house and disengaging a water pipe. It means no heavy lifting. My back ain’t what it used to be.

It means having them offer you the best seat in the house at family gatherings. Maybe they’ll even bring you over a plate from the buffet line and get you a beer from the cooler.

Reaching 70 also means you can get away with wearing sneakers at a wedding, forgetting about color-coordinated clothes, and pretending you don’t hear whenever the wife barks out a shopping order.

It’s also time to be extra good to my children because they’ll get to choose a nursing home for me should that moment arise.

I have friends of mine who have one foot in the grave. We get together and exchange prescription data. One guy I know takes 20 pills a day. How he can keep track of all that rigmarole is beyond me.

I’m up to five, counting a baby aspirin. There’s one for cholesterol, another that’s a blood thinner, and a third as a gout preventative. I began taking that pill 15 years ago after people at work began calling me “gimpy” when I’d show up with an inflamed foot inside a slipper.

Finally, there’s the Vitamin D my doctor prescribes for all his patients. He calls it a miracle drug and truth be known, I don’t know what good it does except that I get a good feeling just popping it.

There’s another benefit to turning 70. I get to hold advantage at some of these racquetball tournaments I enter in the 70-74 age category. A year or two at this juncture can be pivotal, though I know a guy who’s 80 and beats opponents young enough to be his son.

People might think the only exercise I get is sitting behind a computer and pounding a keyboard. Not so. Even when you’re pushing 70, you need more exercise.

I’ve now reached the age when I’m not really any wiser than yesterday but perhaps able to hide my ignorance a little better. So let the celebration begin.

On my birthday, I cannot think of a better way to mark the occasion than hiking up Mount Chochorua with my daughter and son-in-law. My claim to fame—if you wish to call it that—is reaching each of the tallest mountain peaks in New England.

A mountain-climbing colleague presented the ultimate challenge one night over dinner. “Have you ever considered scaling Mount Ararat?” he asked.

More than once, the thought occurred to me. At 70, do I have the chutzpah? Or strength? It certainly would be the monumental experience of my life. And what if I ever stumbled upon remnants of Noah’s Ark? Imagine what a story that would be?

You may have seen the photo of a one-legged climber at the apex with his crutches raised to the air. You also may have noticed the story of Bill Irwin who hiked the entire Appalachian Trail with his seeing-eye dog. Yes, the guy was blind and covered the 2,179 miles from Georgia to Maine. They overcame age and adversity? Can I?

I personally know two people who conquered Ararat, and each of them was left with an indelible impression.

I do not know where the next decade will lead me. I long to live through the best of times, watching my grandchildren go through the various stages of their lives. The world beckons me. I’ve yet to do the Grand Canyon. I mean visit, not climb.

Over the next 10 years, I’d like to finally have some memoirs published, be it 50 years of journalism or photography.

And should I reach 80, I have another pinnacle to cherish. Isn’t that when life really begins?

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.
Tom Vartabedian

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1 Comment

  1. Thank you for the information on your age. I am 74 and I still continue my work, business as usual, in Beirut. I am far from  the Grand Canyon but close to Sannine Canyon. Please do not retire. Continue working as, whatever job you do, this job is your closest friend and your loyal partner. If you want to read my thoughts at 74, read in my latest interview in English.  I have 2 other interview in Armenian in the same site, one in January and the other in July 2010.

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