Aging, Guilt & When to Complain

One of an occasional series on the advancing years

It’s more than a little ominous: 85. I mean, look at all those good people who missed this mark in just the past few months or so: Oliver Sacks, 84 – just barely. Dead Poets Society founder Walter Skold, 57. Peter Mayle, 78. David Cassidy, 67. Stephen Hawking for heaven’s sake, 76. Approaching 85 is its own little why should I still be around anyway? season of guilt.

Guilt - Lachlan Hardy
(Lachlan Hardy)

So perhaps it’s only right that the impending milestone might involve a teeny negative or two. Guilt will do it every time. For me, it’s a nagging suspicion that this party is about to be crashed. On March 15th of my last turn at being 84, for example, I woke up at 5 AM, even before the alarm rang, to catch a flight beginning an overseas adventure. Everything went right. Bags properly packed. Good breakfast. All devices and power cords cross-checked. Problem-free trip to the airport. Zip through security. Thirty minutes before boarding time, when I heard my name being summoned to Gate 11 it was not even a surprise. Probably left my wallet at home, I figured, or someone just called to say the conference had been cancelled. It was so unexpected, this call, that by the time I reached the gate I was fully reconciled to having had too much good fortune for any one day. They wanted to offer me $500 on a future flight if I’d trade my Business Class upgrade. Such is the emotional hazard of approaching 85.

Then there is the limitations business. Pre-80, who worried about acknowledging limits?  Certainly not I. At 72 I signed up to run my first marathon, just because I figured everyone should try to run a marathon before hitting 75.Runner A bout with breast cancer intervened to mess up my training, but I got back on track at least enough to finish the half, feeling absolutely confident I could’ve kept right on going. (Although probably not for another 11 or 12 miles.) And then. One day in Paris, having inched past 80 with no further temptations into distance running, the ominous stairs challenge sneaked up on me. I had only recently moved, at the time, out of a 4-story house in which I was constantly zipping from laundry (ground level) to studio (4th floor) with nary a care. Thinking it would be fun to trip up the circular staircase to the top of Notre Dame right before closing time, I got about 30 steps and decided to let the rest of the group go ahead. More slowly, I climbed another 20 or 30 steps before my little heart said, “I don’t think so.” This would’ve been less embarrassing were not the Notre Dame lookout designed as one way Up, straight across, and one way Down the other side. Luckily for me the concessionaires were just closing up shop and let me follow them down the Up staircase, which is why I did not have to spend the night locked inside the cold stone walls of Notre Dame.Nob_hill_view

Ever since, I have begun to notice limitations on previously-negotiable San Francisco hills. If the heart doesn’t send out alerts, the lungs huff and puff their indignation. This happens a few times to my intense consternation, and I make an appointment with my doctor. I complain a lot. She orders tests that proclaim everything is just fine and dandy. She speaks briefly of the really sick people under her care, mentioning a few of their ages and afflictions. “You’re 84 years old,” she observes; get over it.”

How am I going to complain when I hit 85?




  1. Fantastic, Fran! Look at all you’re attacking and accomplishing! Pretty impressive. I’ve really slowed down, but I’m trying to churn out books, long languishing in rough drafts in boxes and computer files. At least I can still write and revise! And so can you!!

  2. Hi Fran,Loved this one as tomorrow is my birthday and I will be 88!!! for crying out loud.I’m still going strong but do take a few naps along the way.  Haven’t started golfthis new season as we’ve had crazy weather and I really don’t relish cart pathonly and having to traverse the hills and vales.  I will try to get out there nextweek.  February was balmy and nice, March has been a lion!Anyway, I wish you could come to my birthday brunch I’m having after Easterservice at church.  Table is set for 10 but Lib called tonight with another friendto seat –“but she will be late”.  Oh well!  Poor Herb is the only male yet again.Just so happens…….He’s always handled it with grace.I didn’t realize our birthdays were so close.  So belated HB to you.I got a precious card from a former neighbor that had 2 dogs on front –those with lots of extra skin that folds–” we may have wrinkles”  and inside”but we’re still cute!”  I giggled and was charmed!  Nope, doesn’t take much!Blessings for a wonderful Easter day.Love,Doris

    From: Fran Moreland Johns To: Sent: Friday, March 30, 2018 9:56 PM Subject: [New post] Aging, Guilt & When to Complain #yiv1493639655 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv1493639655 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv1493639655 a.yiv1493639655primaryactionlink:link, #yiv1493639655 a.yiv1493639655primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv1493639655 a.yiv1493639655primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv1493639655 a.yiv1493639655primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv1493639655 | Fran Johns posted: “One of an occasional series on the advancing yearsIt’s more than a little ominous: 85. I mean, look at all those good people who missed this mark in just the past few months or so: Oliver Sacks, 84 – just barely. Dead Poets Society founder Walter Skold,” | |

    1. Well, Happy Birthday to you, you mere child you! I hit 85 in June, actually; am just ruminating on getting there. We persevere. Easter/ Springtime love & joy to us all.

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