Becoming septuagenarians changed our lives


Pat Van Dyke
Columnist, The Friday Flyer

I am proud to announce that Pastor Pete and I have earned the title of septuagenarians. Before you pick up your dictionary to look up the word, septuagenarian means that we are both 70 years old!

This last sentence only shows how our “Septuagenarian World” has had a strong effect on the two of us. “Pick up your dictionary”? That is only one example of how much of a septuagenarian that I really am. Does anyone other than me even have a dictionary anymore? Just a few clicks on your computer and you have the meaning of a word on your computer screen.

This all really scares me. Our young people (those non-septuagenarians among us) will never know the excitement of paging through a dictionary to find the meaning to an unknown word only to find that you don’t know how to spell the word. To know how to spell a word, you have to look it up in a dictionary and how are you supposed to look up a word if you don’t know how to spell it!! No wonder I flunked spelling in 3rd grade!

A dictionary-less home is missing out on so much. Where do they press their leaves and flowers for their science assignment? What do they use for a “booster seat” for a visiting toddler, or for a personal bug exterminator, or for a door stop?

Now that we are both officially 70, things are changing. We don’t move quite as quickly as we did before. In fact, when we are faced with a possible need to get out of our recliners, we take at least five minutes to discuss who is moving first. Sometimes, we turn to the trusty game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors” to decide who is going to get up and look for the TV remote control which has usually found its way between the cushions on the sofa.

But if I have to decide what has made the most drastic change in our septuagenarian lives, it’s Valentine’s Day. The first Valentine’s Day that Pastor Pete and I had together was 54 years ago. We were both 17 and had dated no one else. For at least three years, I had been watching with envy my girlfriends receive mushy cards and flowers from their boyfriends and now was my chance to join them!

I had dreams of opening up a beautiful card filled with heartfelt sentiments of how Pete loved me; and, of course, it would be attached to a huge bouquet of red roses. What did my Valentine’s Day card in 1964 express? The front showed a burley overweight cook with a huge anchor tattoo on his arm, holding a soup ladle with “Listen, Dumbhead!” written on the top of the card. I then opened the card to reveal the short, but heart-felt message: “I love ya!” The card was attached to a huge black stuffed poodle. It wasn’t the card or the roses I had dreamed of; but when you had been an unattached for the first four years of your teenage life and thought you were destined to be an old maid, even a sentiment written on torn piece of notebook paper would excite you!

For the last 54 years (five dating and 49 married), we always decide not to go overboard on Valentine’s Day. For years, we would go into Walmart, each pick out a valentine for each other, meet in-between the tires and lug nuts, read them to one another and then walk hand-in-hand back to the stationary aisle and return them to the rack. Pastor Pete always spared no expense and picked out the most expensive card that said “Extra Postage Required.”

Pastor Pete seldom would get me flowers because he knew that I didn’t want them: I preferred cash! I would tell him that flowers die so cash is a better choice for me. I wanted “Hard, Cold Cash”! He took that very literally and one year I received $50 frozen in a bowl of ice.

One year I did get a bouquet of green roses. They were actually twelve 10 dollar bills folded into the shape of a rose. The attached poem read: “Roses are red, cash is green, I know you prefer money, as a sign of my esteem.”

But it all has changed. After all, I’m 70 now and I really don’t want to wait until I die to have people give me flowers. If you want me to enjoy them, give them to me now!

So this year, I dropped a couple of hints that I would really like a bouquet of roses. Well, not really little hints. They were a bit more pronounced. When a person is 70 you say things a little more clearly.

I said to him, “It would be nice if you would give me some roses.” I emphasized the “R” in roses, because of a very strong possibility that I otherwise might find a couple of new hoses on my kitchen sink on Valentine’s morning.

And to his credit….He came through in a big way!

They weren’t roses that were cut off his 24 rose bushes that surround our home. And he didn’t take flowers out of a leftover bouquet from a recent funeral. These he actually purchased from Canyon Lake Florist!

On Valentine’s Day, I woke up to a beautiful bouquet of red roses on my kitchen sink. I was thrilled when I finally saw them…..after I had shuffled to the sink, checked to see if all of my joints were working, rubbed Bengay into my arthritic knees, and took my 25 daily supplements. For some strange reason, when I’m just out of bed, I’m starting to look exactly like a burley overweight cook with a tattoo on my arm.