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January 26

Something gets lost in birthday celebrations between 8-80.  Anticipation can turn to dread.  Excitement can fade. Parties can seem self-indulgent and contrived.

My husband turns 80 tomorrow.  To say that he’s not happy about it is an understatement. If our family had permitted it, he would ignore the changing of the decade. But we all concluded easily that he must celebrate and that we must unite behind the celebration.

He put me off more easily than he could our daughters.  I soon gave up the challenge of getting him to yes.  Our daughters seemed not to have too hard of a time getting him to agree to something “small.” Thankfully, they took over the planning and he cooperated.  He likes to make them happy.

I’ve had a small journey of my own wrapping my head around the reality of my husband becoming 80.  Despite all the euphemisms and nonsense such as  The Golden years, You’re only as old as you think you are  and Just like fine wine, you grow better with the years.

I’m hoping this experience will be good preparation for me when I round the corner myself in a few short years. I will want to celebrate. Maybe if I start dieting now, I’ll be able to wear a size 8 dress and everyone will remark, You don’t LOOK 80!

I’ve started to lose friends to aging and illness. It’s a privilege to reach 80, not given to many people. I’ve just learned that the total number of octogenarians in USA is 12 million which is about 4.3 percent of the total population.  Not a huge number. So, rejoice if you’re in the minority that is alive and kicking in the 8th decade of life, but find some younger friends.

I’ve noticed for several years, that my husband and I are frequently the oldest people in the room, at a restaurant, or at an event.  It’s been many years since I noticed that doctors kept getting younger and younger.

I now understand why older adults walk with difficulty.  Mobility began to affect me about 10 years ago, when arthritis in my knees became an issue.  Getting up gracefully from the floor is an impossible and humiliating endeavor, to be avoided when possible or attempted when no one is looking at you.  Notice, the word, attempted.

My husband and I bicker over who is more hard of hearing, as my adult children, listening to us,  roll their eyes.

I’ve found its best to avoid the mirror before getting dressed.  I look forward to going to bed on the early side.

I don’t tolerate noisy environments very well, nor noisy people who in my mind talk too much but really don’t have much to say.

I long ago gave up worrying about what to do with my life.  It’s mostly done and I’m mostly very pleased with it.  I still enjoy travel and the thrill of being in an interesting place I’ve never been before.  I have no bucket lists and have long ago accepted the limits of the places I’m likely to visit in my lifetime. They won’t miss me, nor I them.

I move at a more leisurely pace now.  Asthma contra- indicates speed.  I’m now more than happy to pursue fewer things in a day.  I understand why they named a retirement community Leisure World.  I savor my leisure.

January 27

The sunsets will still dazzle, as will the ocean and trees and flowers and art and music and dance and lots of other worldly things. Being surrounded by my family is a reminder of lives shared.  Good friendships make the world go round. This milestone’s been passed and life goes on!

The party was wonderful.  The birthday boy loved it.  The guests were happy to be there. The food was terrific. The tributes flowed.  The late January weather was balmy and allowed us to enjoy our cocktails and apps on the patio of my daughter’s house. Our youngest grandchild sang a Dylan song for her PAPA, and then because she liked singing with a mike so much, proceeded to sing two more songs which she alone was familiar with.    My husband blew out the candles on his coconut cake in one breath.  Impressive.

Once again, the love of family was palpable and moving. My husband and I both recognized that because of his retirement, he’s been able to spend a lot more time with our grandkids and to develop meaningful relationships with them.  So very satisfying.

In Summary  

The world is full of advice on good and bad aging and how to age gracefully.  I think I’m finding my own path as each of us must.  These years are definitely a time of transition.  What do I carry with me and what do discard?  Maybe it’s time to Marie Kondo aging; if something doesn’t bring joy or pleasure, screw it.

As it turned out, the birthday party was a wonderful affair;  just the right size, good food, good energy and lots of warmth and love for the man of the hour. It was moving in a way that earlier birthdays can never be.  Peggy Lee, Is that all there is?


Dianne Vapnek

In an attempt to slow life's quickening pace, I'm writing to share my personal perspective on the aging process, its dilemmas, the humorous self-deception, the insights and the adventure of it all. I spent the bulk of my time in beautiful Santa Barbara, CA, but manage to get to NYC a few times times a year. I've been a dancer/dance teacher and dance supporter almost all my life. For the past20years, I help create and produce a month-long creative residency in Santa Barbara for contemporary American choreographers and their dancers. It's been incredibly gratifying. This year, I decided it's time to retire! Big change. I also now spend several weeks a year in Kyoto Japan, residing for several weeks in the spring and the fall. I've been magnetically attracted to Japan for many years. Now I live out a dream to live there part-time.


  • Dara says:

    Such a wonderful reflection of a very special birthday and the man celebrating. Please give him our birthday wishes -sending love ❤️

  • Melanie Bales says:

    Happy Belated Birthday Danny! I am coming to SB Feb 27 hope you two are there? All my best

  • Sheri says:

    I’ve never understood those who don’t want to celebrate a birthday. You’re getting older no matter what so why not let yourself be spoiled!!!!

  • Steve Kappel says:

    80 not so bad. Elaine and my kids gave me a family only party, about 30 were able to attend.
    Many more , Danny.
    Cousin Steve Kappel


    As usual well done, my friend. 80 what a subject. The love, the sentiment, the reality of what is and is still – expressed beautifully. I relate well to this. My bucket list does still exist but of course as any birder will tell you, it goes on till it can’t. Perhaps smaller and more realistic. For my 80th, my wish is to be on a trip in Norway to visit my daughter (semi-adopted) to get to the upper regions, to see the northern lights and view polar bears before it disappears along with me. Of course, on my route to this adventure to bird, bird bird. It obviously means I need to get my arse in gear to walk more, stretch my mind more, and to get my hearing checked. ( why are you whispering, speak up for god’s sake)
    love you D

  • Laura says:

    Gosh, I hope Susannah didn’t put 80 candles on that cake! We did 40 once and thought we were going to melt the dessert.