Thoughts on approaching my 80th Birthday
I wonder how I should feel at 80? I’ve never been there before, so I can’t say from experience. Do I feel “old?” No, not really. Do you see me as “old?” Is it a state of mind? Is it the physical way one feels?
I realize many historical events have taken place since I was born:
November 30, 1908 in a little town in northern Italy- Arzignano, Provinca Vicenza. Only five years before the beginning of World War I. Only four and one-half years before mother and I would sail for 14 days across the Atlantic in a slow boat to the land of promise – steerage class – sleeping in hammocks stacked three high.
Arriving at Ellis Island August 1913, the Statue of Liberty greeted us before my father did. What a beautiful sight!
Going through the stalls – like cattle – at Ellis Island was not pleasant. But still a gateway to “the land of opportunities” – streets paved with gold we were told.
I remember things there were before I became a “Senior Citizen” –
I was here before the pill – and the population explosion
Before radio, TV, and Penicillin
Before polio shots and antibiotics
Before open heart surgery and hair transplants
Before frozen foods, nylons, Dacron, Xerox, Kinsey, radar, fluorescent lights, credit cards, ballpoint pens and Frisbees.
When I was “young:”
Time-sharing meant togetherness not computers or condominiums
Co-eds never wore slacks
There were no panty hose, drip-dry clothes.
No dishwashers, no automatic washing machines, no clothes dryers, freezers or electric blankets.
Hawaii and Alaska were not states.
Men wore short hair – never earrings.
I never heard of Leonard Bernstein or Ann Landers, plastic, or the 40 hour week.
Sweethearts got married first – and then lived together – how quaint!
Closets were for clothes – not for coming out of
Girls wore Peter Pan collars, and I thought cleavage was what butchers did.
It was ‘fashionable’ to smoke cigarettes – Grass was to be mowed! Coke was a refreshing drink, and ‘pot’ was something you cooked in.
If I was asked: “What is CIA, NATO, UFO, VCR, GNP, MBA, BMW, HMO, JFK”, I would have said “alphabet soup!”
Would you believe me if I said?
When I was in grade school – Longfellow School – I would watch the lamplighter go south on Minnehaha Avenue – lighting the gas lights on the boulevard?
We did not have an indoor toilet until we came to South Minneapolis – about – 1916?
I would go to a pump outside the house, pump a bucket full of water, and carry it up stairs?
When we moved from northeast Minneapolis to 3004 Minnehaha Avenue South, we still did not have electric lights?
We used kerosene lamps – the chimneys had to be cleaned as part of housecleaning
We still had no bathtub – we took baths in a washtub in the kitchen near the stove where it was warm – and this only once a week!
I remember the teacher telling us that to be sewed into our underwear for the winter was not healthy!
I remember my two sisters and my brother being born at home in the big bedroom, with only the midwife in attendance – no hospital stay – and all went well.
My first child, (Anita, 1930) and my second, (John, 1932) were born at home (4049 44th Avenue South) with a midwife and my mother (Maria Carlotto) and your father in the room.
I remember a blacksmith shop with a big brawny blacksmith shoeing horses for many years on Minnehaha Avenue near Lake Street. It is now gone.
I graduated from High School in 1927 when Lindbergh flew the Atlantic. Your father took me for an airplane ride before we were married so he could say we “kissed in the air.” It was a two-seater – open cockpit, and flew over what is now Hwy 62.
The big depression hit us in 1932. The money had to be carefully budgeted, $1.00 per day for groceries – bread was 5 cents for a one-pound loaf. No new clothes – we made over old clothes, repaired shoes, and mended, mended, and mended.
When I put these things down, yes, I guess I’ve traveled the road of life a long time. Even my prayers have changed. But that is another side of life.
I only hope I’ve learned to communicate better with my Maker. I honestly read this prayer often and pray God help me:
To remember I’m growing older (not old)
To keep me from getting talkative.
And particularly from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject on every occasion.
Release me from craving to try to straighten out everyone’s affairs.
Make me thoughtful but not moody
Helpful but not bossy.
With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all, but, Thou knowest, Lord that I want a few friends in the end.
Keep my mind free from the recital of endless detail; give me wings to get to the point. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.
Keep me reasonably sweet.
I do not want to be a saint – some of them are so hard to live with.
Help me to extract all possible fun out of life
There are so many amusing things around us.
And I don’t want to miss any of them. Amen.
In 1985 I started back to college and wanted to get an Associate of Arts Degree before my 80th birthday. I have not made it, but please pray that I may attain this goal before my 81st birthday!
Do know that I love everyone of you
I love my friends; I love life, I hope to bring happiness to all with whom I’m associated
And from another prayer
If in life you keep the jest
If love you hold
No matter how the years go by
No matter how the birthdays fly
You are not old
Much love to all
Mom and Grandma