Ocean City Today

Thoughts on turning 70

By Stewart Dobson | Aug 24, 2017



printed 08/25/2017


I broke out in hives Wednesday. On Thursday, I turned 70. They might be related.

Seventy. 70. S-e-v-e-n-t-y. The new 10-years-older-than-60. It’s the point in life when your drive train has exceeded its warranty, a new paint job won’t hide the dents in the chassis, your racing days are bygone and your mood is feeling piston.

If age was a ladder, this rung would be labeled, per consumer protection requirements, “Caution: Assuming there is a next step …”

Maybe it has yet to become obvious, but I’m having trouble with 70.

I can remember the days when I said, “I can hardly wait until I’m 21.”

Followed by, “You know, 30 is the perfect age.”

And then, “Forty. Hmmm. I’m almost an adult.”

And 50, “No longer will I be referred to as a promising young man.”

Sixty, “Jeez.”

But 70? In all the counsel, wisdom and guidance my parents gave me during my formative years, the one thing they never got around to telling me was, “… and then you’ll turn 70.”


This is the age when your biggest concern is not war, peace, solvency, insolvency, heaven or hell or the possibility of the occasional scenic overlook along the road to either.

No, it is how to get up from the table without wearing half your food.

For some reason, people’s mouths become smaller once they turn 70, or maybe their facial coordinates change, since no matter where they aim their dining utensils, they will, at some point, be off the mark.

The early stages of this inevitable shift in hand-mouth-synchronization were there when I stepped outside for a post-lunch breath of air the other day.

I put on my sunglasses, looked out and — whoa! — Is that the moon? An earth-destroying asteroid? Am I headed for the new Discovery Channel reality show, “My 600-pound cataract?”

No, it was worse.

There I stood, with 70 years of accumulated knowledge, having gone to sea, traveled above the Arctic Circle, ventured to foreign lands, driven across the country, interviewed international diplomats, scientists and artists, and played on Jimmy Buffet’s Down Valley Doughboys softball team, dammit, with Buffet, writer Hunter S. Thompson, Jeff Hanna of The Dirt Band and former Kansas City  Chiefs running back Ed Podolak, trying to squint through a massive glob of mayonnaise on my sunglasses.

I wasn’t wearing my sunglasses at lunch, which suggests that either some cosmic disturbance caused my cheesesteak to erupt and send lava-like mayo arcing onto my glasses, or I just missed, somehow.

Either way, it’s tough to strike that “Lord of All He Surveys” pose on the outside deck when there’s the maximum daily requirement of salad dressing on your sunglasses.

“Excuse me, but is that mayonnaise on your sunglasses?”

“Yeah, I’m 70. What of it?”

On the other hand, you spend all your life acquiring knowledge and learning about life itself, only to start forgetting it. Where’s the justice in that?

“Let’s see, the square root of seven is … wait, wait, I used to know …”

And there are mysteries of life that you’re still trying to understand, such as, if cell phones are so smart these days, why do they keep asking you questions?

“Do you want to enable Siri?”

“I don’t know, you tell me.”

Also on the agenda are more visits to the doctor, not because you need to, but because they tell you to.

“I’d like to run some tests, just to see how you’re doing.”

“Why don’t you just look at the calendar? That will tell you everything you need to know.”

“OK, but you do need to make some changes in your lifestyle.”

“Why? The current version has gotten me this far, hasn’t it?”

“Because 70 is the new 50.”

That’s an interesting point, because if it’s true, either I have an outside chance of living to 140, or I just as easily could have gotten mayonnaise on my glasses 20 years earlier, 70 and 50 being the same.

I’ll tell you what else it means: when you’re 50, you can get a laugh (maybe) if you put an upside-down paper coffee filter on your head and say, “Look at me, I’m Martha Washington.”

Do that at 70 and people start “making arrangements.”

Despite what the doctors may tell you, the real problem is getting your food to its regularly assigned destination.

In the course of two weekends a number of years ago, I saw my fate. We had a family dinner on one weekend and everything was as it should be.

At dinner just seven days later, a family member who had attended the first gathering had just turned 70. Spinach everywhere.

“Um, Uncle Bob, you have spinach on your ear.”


Restaurants should be warned in advance of this phenomenon of aging.

“I’d like to make reservations for 10, all over 70.”

“Extra napkins, correct?”

The fact is, I am completely unprepared for being the age that I am. It is foreign to me, although I am working on my old man cackle and am taking every opportunity to say “by cracky” for emphasis at the end of sentences.

“Young man, I remember when I was your age, by cracky! But it’s all good, you’ll have loads of fun, go places, see things … and then you’ll turn 70. Food everywhere.”

Incidentally, despite what people might suggest with regard to this aging business, I can still drink as much beer as I used to.

It’s just that now I process it a lot more frequently.

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