IN MY ORBIT: I Just Turned 55—Now Give Me My Damn Senior Discount!

Jennifer Oliver O'Connell Collage - used with permission

I cannot say I’ve been waiting for this day, but I’ve always thought the perks of officially moving into the “senior citizen” box were pretty cool.

Today is the day! Fifty-five years ago, on August 2 in Cook County Hospital at 5:41 a.m., I was born. I was my mother’s seventh child and her last. In numerology and Biblical math, the number 7 signifies completion. So essentially, I had the honor of completing our family unit.

It’s been a rocky road to get to middle life plus five, and I’m glad for that. I feel so very sorry for these younger Millennials and Zoomers crying for their safe spaces, when the world affords no such thing. I feel sad because they have no concept that you only become better, stronger, and more resilient when it doesn’t.

You also have a whole lot more fun.

This quote, attributed to George Elliot is one that I live by: “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” I have a placard that usually hangs on my wall, but at present, we are in between housing, and don’t have a wall of our own. So, the etching on the wall of my mind will have to suffice.

Every year I grow older is a blessing, because growing older is a blessing. I have lost three sisters: one at 36, one at 49, and one at 59. The first two due to catastrophic illness, the other one was unexpected, and probably due to medical error. Being the youngest of the Oliver clan, outliving three of your siblings who were still in the prime of lives is heartbreaking, as well as sobering.

So, I cherish the years, and as the Bible encourages, I number them so I can gain a heart of wisdom. Some days I see the evidence of that wisdom, other days I wonder where I am going and what I am doing. Fifty-five is definitely a transitional year, as I navigate these transitory times.

One of the ways I number is to measure the accomplishments, the areas where I have overcome, and I express gratitude. While I often think I’m well on my way to becoming Crabby Road’s Maxine (if you knew my mother and grandmother, this is genetic and inevitable), what greases the wheels of that trend towards irascibility is an attitude of gratitude.

So, while I usually share this with my journal, on this day of my birth, I will share my list with you, dear readers.

I have always wanted to be a working writer since I was 10 years old, which means 45 years of serious pursuit. Those years have involved a combination of schooling, workshops, writing in a multitude of genres and disciplines, and collaboration with creative people, and it has borne fruit. I’m by no means rich, and my platform doesn’t reach very far; but I have one, and it continues to grow. The journey is sometimes uphill, but enjoyable nonetheless.

I had my first series of articles published when I was 15 years old, through an urban journalism workshop in Chicago, and I haven’t stopped. Really, I never plan to. My literary touchstone is James Michener, who was 47 years old when Tales of the South Pacific was first published. Michener had a prolific career well into his 80s, and that is my plan—and I’m sticking to it!

While some of the writing I have done has not been terribly exciting (those years of technical writing were a bit tortuous), I have a portfolio of quality work, including three books which will be published one day, several entries in a first of its kind women’s encyclopedia, rubbed shoulders with the literati and the glitterati, done some fun and informative interviews, and met really terrific people along the way. I have always been a political junkie, and forever been an oddball, so landing at RedState as a contributor is definitely a great fit, and a dream come true.

I am grateful to have met the love of my life at 39, and we have been inseparable ever since. Being an oddball, a nerd, and a fatty, suffice to say I didn’t have a whole lot of dates in those almost four decades of being single. My husband is an oddball, a nerd, and loves the fatties. Who knew that there was someone who was a perfect fit to all of those things? God works in mysterious ways.

I grew up and spent my adult years in what I call Charismania, so the push in church circles to get married young was prevalent, and people were getting together and getting married All. The. Time. There was one year in my late 20s, when I went to probably 25 weddings, and I cried before every one. I am grateful that it didn’t happen for me back then. Half of those people whose weddings I went to are now divorced, and some of them have left the faith. I am blessed that Lynn and I are celebrating 14 years in a marriage and a faith walk together. I believe getting married later in life makes the experience much richer, and offers a different form of magic than in the younger years. I am still discovering new things about the man I married, and another favorite quote, from Robert Browning, rings true:

Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made. Our times are in his hand who saith, ‘A whole I planned, youth shows but half; Trust God: See all, nor be afraid!”

Not finally, but for the sake of being concise, I am most grateful for my health as I grow older. If you haven’t noticed, the elite don’t like older people, or people they consider weak. I have been watching this strategy to eliminate the elderly and the weak explode over the past year, and it is angering. When I was in my 20s and 30s, it was no big deal, because I had more years in the front view than I did in the rear view; now that this is reversed, preserving what years I have left, and preserving my health are so much more vital. So, I am thankful for my body knowledge, my Yoga practice, and for the quality medical doctors who are left, who are committed to keeping me and others strong and focused on maintaining and enhancing our lives, as opposed to forcing us to medicate or terminate them.

My sweet Baboos named Ian, Puppet, and Maddie add to the life quotient too, and I am so very thankful to be their fur mamma.

So, I leave you with this bit of wisdom learned over 55 years: stay engaged, my friends; stay healthy, mentally, emotionally, and physically; and, as Henry David Thoreau exhorted, “live deep, and suck all the marrow out of life“! That is what I plan to continue to do as I take another circle around the sun.

Now, to go out and indulge in one of those discounts I’ve waited all these years to acquire.

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