On two occasions lately, I have rudely challenged the age of female friends, and they both forgave me for my uncouth mistake.
In each case, my victims said they were retiring. But they looked so young. I immediately jumped to the conclusion that they were retiring early and gambling on not needing health insurance before reaching 65 when they would become eligible for Medicare.
They both assured me they actually are 65 already. They qualify now for Medicare.
So I was wrong. But they were kind enough to hold no grudge against me for believing they were years younger than their actual age.
With all due respect to those women of 65 who appear to be so young, it occurs to me that part of the reason I thought they weren’t eligible for federal funding is because I am now 11 years beyond Medicare eligibility and 11 years older than they are.
As people grow older, our appearance makes age a comparative matter. It has always been that way while going gray and obeying the pull of gravity on our gradually more dangly bodies.
For instance, when I was 6, a 16-year-old was a virtual adult. Teens were big as adults, bossy as adults and, yes, on occasion, protective and loving as adults.
Similarly, if you are 20, a 40-year-old can appear a bit overripe. But if you are 65, a 40-year-old is a young and fabulous sight.
Then you turn 76 like me, and all of a sudden, out of the blue gray, a 65-year-old looks far too young to be eligible for Medicare.
If you keep that up, going from 70 to 80 and beyond, sooner or later, practically everybody in the world looks and acts younger than you. That’s partly because of Shakespeare’s rule: We begin our lives as babies and we become virtual babies again somewhere down the line.
But most of us are never 100 percent old. Most of us are never free of our inner child. In later years, we may dwell a bit more on serious matters, but with the help of crazy cats, bounding dogs and our own small giggly grandchildren – not to mention unintentionally hilarious members of the U.S. House of Representatives – we have much to laugh at late in life.
Life is full of jokes and jokers who would make a child laugh. We elders are no exception if we dare to be young. And I dare you not to be.
For instance, what is funnier than all these people toppling into old age, growing grumpy and angrily denouncing rampant socialism in the nation – while pouncing eagerly on the blatant socialism that floods our old lives with Medicare and Socialized Security?
Frankly, I am not embarrassed to be among them. Ask me if I am a socialist or I am a capitalist, and I will answer “yes.” I would hate to see government take over true capitalism like corporations, stores, coffee, pizza joints and brassiere factories. But I would also hate to see capitalism take over the fire department, the military, the public schools or, God forbid, health care.
Meanwhile, 50-year-olds, who carry the load most of us once carried, now speak darkly of doing something about the excess of Social Security and Medicare. When they reach 65, they may still be screaming their little lungs out, but they will find the senior safety net more tolerable than they do now.
There will even come a day, as 65 becomes 75 and then 85, when they will start to notice how strangely young those 65-year-olds are.
Meanwhile, don’t you think I look a lot younger than 80-year-olds?Contact columnist Bill Hall at email@example.com or 1012 Prospect Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501.