Life at age 80 brings a lot more freedom and a little wisdom

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I celebrated my 80th birthday on Mother's Day.

It reminded me of visiting my 87-year-old year old mom in a rehab facility after a hip fracture she suffered many years ago. "Look at all the old people here," she casually remarked.

When did it happen? How did I get to be this old?

Usually on my birthday, my son Patrick takes me to a Pirates game. It's sort of our tradition since all of the other kids are out of town. We do the whole bit -- not the cheap seats, but brunch at the Lexus Club with seats behind home plate, where my friends can see us on TV and vendors bring us food and drinks.

This year the Pirates were out of town on Mother's Day, however, so we marched in the "Race for the Cure" at Schenley Park instead.

I can't say that I am elated about turning 80, but it really isn't all bad. I have slowed down a bit the past few months, giving up my part-time job as a nurse at an assisted-living facility. I thought it was about time, especially since I was older than most of the residents.

Life is easier now. It is nice not having to get up at 5:30 to go to work. Happiness is sleeping in, having coffee, reading the Post-Gazette, Tribune-Review and Wall Street Journal while listening to my favorite radio talk show host, Marty Griffin, on KDKA.

Two days a week I swim 60 lengths at the pool. I don't even like to swim, but it is easier on these 80-year-old joints than walking. About five years ago an orthopedic doctor told me that I was walking bone on bone and it was just a matter of time before I would need total knee replacement surgery. The last place I want to go, however, is a hospital, which everyone knows is where you get sick. That's why I swim.

My friends whose names have also yet to show up in the obituaries are hanging in there with me. We volunteer as ushers for the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and get to see all of the Broadway and CLO shows at the theaters in town. We work at the Three Rivers Arts Festival and many other venues in our wonderful most livable city.

I also keep busy visiting my kids and grandkids from Boston to California. I have been to my share of swim meets, gymnastic competitions, soccer and lacrosse games. You name it, I've been there.

On these trips I get picked up at the airport and just expect to head out to a field. It is non-stop from there with baseball, soccer and basketball. One weekend while visiting my four grandsons in Little Rock, Ark., I attended 13 games. Just another day in the life of grandma.

I guess time flies when you're having fun. You raise your kids, go to their high school graduations, send them off to college and watch them fall in love and marry.

One of my favorite poems is Denis Waitley's "Roots and Wings" The first two lines are: "If I had two wishes I know what they would be/I'd wish for roots to cling to and wings to set me free."

You try to give your children roots to know where home is and wings to fly away and experience what has been taught. You encourage them to go out into the world on their own. All of my kids went away to college, found their passion and have lived in many parts of the country, but they know they can always come home.

When all of the kids left the nest and Charlie (our dog) died, I left the big house and moved to a condo. So here I am, and life really is pretty good. There isn't too much on my bucket list.

Sure, I'd like to be around to see my grandkids graduate from college and get married. My son, Patrick, recently ran for judge and came up a little short, but I have no doubt that he'll succeed eventually in this endeavor. I'd like to be around to see that.

Other than that I've had a good run. I will stay as active as possible, and perhaps 10 years from now I will write a piece on turning 90.


Eileen Connelly of Churchill, a retired registered nurse, can be reached at PG Portfolio welcomes "Local Dispatch" submissions and other reader essays. Send your writing to; or by mail to Portfolio, Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh PA 15222. Portfolio editor Gary Rotstein may be reached at 412-263-1255.


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