I turn 55 today.
At least I think today is my birthday. I actually may have turned 55 yesterday.
I've always been confused about my birthdate. And no, I'm not losing my mind. Let me explain the confusion.
I was born in Japan when the calendar said it was Aug. 17, 1961. But it wasn't Aug. 17, 1961 in America when I came into the world. You see, there is an invisible line of longtitude somewhere in the vast Pacific Ocean between the United States and Japan. Because of the International Date Line, I was actually born when it was Aug. 16, 1961 in the United States.
Technically we all have to go by the date and time based on the time zone where we were born. So that means my birthday arrived yesterday in Japan, which is where it counts, which means it was Aug. 16 here. The whole birthdate thing really confused my grandmother, who always told me happy birthday a day early.
I was the product of two "kids" from Merced County. They were both 19 when they married in the Assembly of God Church in Livingston in February 1960. My dad wore his Navy dress uniform during the ceremony. He was an electrician in the Navy and later was shipped out to Japan. My mother, fresh out of high school and wanting desperately to get out of the Valley, followed him. In December 1960 I was conceived in Japan. I've joked that I should have a small tattoo placed on the bottom of my foot in small letters reading "Made in Japan."
We left Japan for the United States when I was six weeks old. The journey aboard the naval transport, the USNS General Hugh J. Gaffey took 12 days. The ship docked at Fort Mason in San Francisco on Oct. 9, 1961. I spent my formative years in Mountain View, Milpitas, Modesto and Oakdale.
I was told my entire life that I was born in Sagami Ono. A few weeks ago my mother saw in the news that 19 were killed in a knife attack in Sagamihara and she told me, "That's where you were born." I argued with her awhile and told her all my life I was told Sagami Ono. So I did an internet search to find out exactly where Camp Zama and Zama Army Hospital are located. According to Wikipedia, Camp Zama is a United States Army post located in the cities of Zama and Sagamihara, in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, about 40 km southwest of Tokyo.
Add to that real confusion about whether I am really a senior citizen. I mean, I don't want to be classified as a senior citizen but there seems to be no definitive age. AARP started sending me membership appeals at age 48. They may call me a senior but nobody else seems to. Well, maybe that changes today. Perko's menu has a page on the back for "friends 55 and older." Some restaurants won't consider me a senior until 2021 and some not until 2026.
On Friday I was making a purchase at a hospital cafeteria when I glanced at the register and saw "senior discount" and a minus sign. "Hmm, that's the first time anyone offered me a senior discount without asking," I told the clerk. "What's the age for a senior discount?" I asked. She must have smelled a trap. If she answered with an age older than I then she knew she had issued an insult. Maybe she felt a trap. She dodged the question, answering, "It seems proper."
Aw, let them keep their discount. I never could figure out why seniors are offered discounts anyway. If you really think about it, discounts should be offered to people with children who are barely making ends meet. Give the parents with five kids sitting around the table at Red Robbin a discount. Seniors typically have no mortgages and only have themselves and maybe a spouse to feed. That's it.
Given how 50 is the new 40, 60 the new 50, 70 the new 60, and 80 the new 70, you'd think they'd up the age of seniordom. Why not? Social Security has.
Alright, so I'm a little unclear of when my birthday counts in America and I'm uncertain about my birthplace. (Just what a person needs as they turn 55.) But I'm confident that I don't feel 55.
When you reach 55, the 70- and 80-year-old set may call you "young still" but those in their 30s think you're ancient. But you do start wondering about how much time you have left. I'm at that age where most of the relatives I grew up with are gone. Many of them did not take good care of themselves. They smoked, a few did drugs and most generally did not exercise. In December I lost my last grandparent. I know that the life expectancy for an American male is 78.74 years but my grandfather lived to be 87 and worked hard physically all of this life. My dad is a healthy 76. My grandmother died at age 96 last December. So if I'm going to live to age 86, and if we compare a lifetime to a 24-hour day, it's about 3:34 p.m. for me. Midnight seems like a long way off still. There's a lot of life to live.
I suppose I never got the memo that I was to act my age. I still do things that young people do. Over the weekend I tried out a scooter and managed not to break my neck. Years ago I was at the Stanislaus County Fair, standing in line for the Gravitron, that flying saucer type ride that you get in and they spin you so hard that the G's on your body push your heart back against your spine and your body slides upward. I looked around and noticed that I was the oldest one on the thing.
Ben Franklin, that wise old sage of long ago, was a smart fellow. He said this: "We do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing."
When I trekked to the top of Half Dome in June I believe I was the oldest one up there. That's fine with me. Our young people need examples of those in their 50's who stay active and fit and realize age is a numbers game. The real importance is how one lives life.
How do you feel? Let Jeff know by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org