By BOB BILLETER
I Celebrate My 90th Birthday
I did something on Tuesday of last week that I have never done before. I celebrated my 90th birthday. My father is to blame for me working past the age of 65. He retired at that age and he was bored to death until he died at 92. He made me promise that I would continue to work after retirement age. I have kept my word to him.
I have never quite understood why birthdays are such a big thing to so many people. A birthday means that you are getting older. What is so great about that? But in my family, even during the Great Depression years when we didn’t even have money for birthday gifts, birthdays were a big thing.
Family members would make things like handkerchiefs that they had embroidered and give them to the family member that was having a birthday. They didn’t buy gifts at the store because we didn’t have money. The birthday parties were enjoyable events just the same. I remember a birthday when all I got was a handkerchief.
When I was in Korea after World War II I had my 19th birthday and I didn’t realize I had had a birthday until 2 days later. But I have never been very excited about having a birthday so I didn’t lose any sleep because the day was such a dud.
I’ve never quite understood why getting a year older is such a happy event for so many people.
I am amazed that I have the good health that I have at 90. I did not eat nutritious food when I was a kid. We had a big garden and we had plenty of good food but I would sit down at the table and eat bread that I had put butter on and sprinkled sugar on. That often would be my meal.
My grandmother would say, “Bobby, you will never live to be 30.” Thirty seemed a long way off to me then so I continued to eat my bread, butter and sugar.
Some people get new cars on their birthday. Some women get expensive fur coats. My wife is a good baker and she would enjoy baking me a cake and decorating it but I tell her I would not get that much enjoyment out of it. I guess I’m a freak. However, I don’t believe many men get very excited about birthdays.
Have you ever heard an explanation for the stories in the Bible about living to be hundreds of years old? I assume that their years were extremely short ones.
Do you think that sometime in the future drugs, techniques and procedures will be developed that will extend the lives of people by dozens or hundreds of years? Who knows what will be discovered or developed in coming decades or centuries.
When I got married and had children I didn’t get carried away like many people do and spend big sums of money when their birthdays came around. I thought it would make more sense to put money in the bank for their education. I would try to get my kids three gifts — a nice one, a medium-priced one and a small one. That seemed to work out well.
The kids were always satisfied and enjoyed what they got. My wife and I taught them to be grateful for what they received and to not be envious of other kids who got much more expensive and impressive toys or gifts. Your friend got a much more expensive gift, we hold them, but the parents probably are not putting money away for their kids’ education. Education, we told them, is more important than expensive gifts.
I don’t know if my kids bought that explanation completely but I’m sure they will endorse it now that they are grown up and have children of their own.
There is terrible waste in our country. Many, many people would enjoy a more fruitful and meaningful life if they lived more frugally and planned ahead. I’ve rambled on and on until I have run out of space. I’ll try to write some deathless prose the next time. It’s difficult to sound like a genius every Wednesday.