Tag Archives: baby boomers

A true friend, right down to the end

Edgefield School, basketball team

Edgefield School 6th grade basketball team. Two teammates wore light pants for the photo. Guess who they were?

By Bruce Stambaugh

There are friends, and then there are friends.

Dave and I have been friends for a lifetime. Given our age, that’s a long time. Just to be clear, Dave is several months older than me.

Growing up, we lived just a few blocks apart, though we didn’t necessarily run in the same gangs in our northeast Ohio neighborhood. In the 1950s, that meant we didn’t have the same circle of friends.

lifetime friend

My lifetime friend, Dave.

Still, we’ve been best buddies since grade school. We were in several classes together in our elementary school that overflowed with baby boomers. We have lots of fun memories from good old Edgefield School.

Not only that, but we also went to the same junior high school, high school, and college together. Shoot. We even majored in the same subject, journalism. Dave focused on marketing. I chose news writing.

A funny thing happened on the way to life. After completing our internships, his for a non-profit agency and mine at a major metropolitan newspaper, neither of us pursued that career.

We both ended up in rural Holmes Co., Ohio. Though neither of us was certified, we both became elementary teachers. Dave began his education career at Millersburg, Ohio. I started at nearby Killbuck.

Dave married the love of his life the first year he taught. I married during my second year of pedagogy to a beautiful woman I knew all of nine months. That was 45 years ago.

Guess who our best man was? Yep. Dave. Today, his wife and my wife are also best friends, two of a kind, kind of like Dave and me.

Dave and Kate had a girl and a boy. Neva and I had a girl and boy. We were even in the same Lamaze class together.

Now, no one would ever mistake Dave for me or me for Dave. I’m much more handsome than he is, and more modest too. Dave does have a better head of hair than me, which wouldn’t take much.

Dave and I came from similar God-fearing, middle-class families. His fine folks worked hard to ensure their two sons would contribute in the post-World War II world. Mine did the same, only with five raucous rascals to point in the right direction.

Cleveland Indians

Dave and I both like baseball, too.

Our parents instilled in us good manners, proper eating habits, and to keep the Sabbath like any good, church-going folks would. That meant after Sunday services, we played ball, went fishing or washed the car.

Dave and I dressed alike, too. Hand-me-down flannel shirts and blue jeans were appropriate for many occasions. That trait followed us into adulthood in an uncanny way.

On more than one occasion, Dave and I have shown up at the same event dressed as if we had agreed on the dress code before leaving. We didn’t.

Recently, we arranged to meet for dinner before attending a concert by Sonnenberg Station in Wooster, Ohio.

Right on cue, mostly thanks to our prompt wives, we arrived within minutes of each other. Dave had on a light blue shirt, dark blue sweater, beige khakis, and brown shoes. So did I.

When my wife told Dave’s wife that I was having a colonoscopy, Kate responded, “So is Dave!” The same day. Dave and I just laughed, until the preparations began.

I’m happy to report that we had the same results. We both see our gastroenterologists next in 2026.

I hope each of you have a friend like Dave. I hope you get a good report on your colonoscopy, too.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

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This baby boomer is aging gracefully or not

fishing, baby boomers, retirement

Baby boomers like this couple can relax with hobbies like fishing, if they can get out of the chair to reel in their catch. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

My wife and I and two other couples, all baby boomers, sat around the table playing dominoes. Besides the antics of the game, we laughed at the anecdotal stories we shared about our particular infirmities.

None in the group of six was sick. We just chuckled at our ailments brought on by our aging.

Beyond the stories of goofiness and crazy interactions, a common theme arose. Though we all agreed that we still thought young, clearly, we weren’t teenagers anymore. In fact, we were all grandparents.

While laughing at our gradual frailties, the game almost became secondary to our gathering. And yet, I felt a certain relief that it wasn’t just me that was feeling his age.

Keep in mind that those of us in the baby boomer generation had the reputation for thinking ourselves invincible, clutching college degrees and armed with an ironclad arrogance that we could somehow save the world. Now that I need help buttoning my shirts, I know that mindset was a bit over the top.

grandkids, creativity

It’s nice for some of us boomers to practice our creativeness with our grandchildren. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

The lack of dexterity is probably my biggest frustration. I have the hardest time picking up small items from flat surfaces.

Fortunately, I have a very understanding wife who at least saves her chuckling about my dilemma until she is out of earshot. At my age, that isn’t too far.

My hearing seems to be fading fast, although I’ve had two different doctors check it with the same results. I’m right on the border of needing hearing aids.

I’m holding off with the purchase. Man that I am, I prefer to cup my hand up to my good ear to hear conversations. Besides, the hardest frequency for me to detect is that of my wife’s voice.

I’ve had bifocals for years now and get along just fine. My good optometrist ensures me that all is well physically with my eyes. I’m glad for that, as long as I can remember where I put my glasses.

pills, pillbox, medication

My pillbox. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Memory was probably the number one issue discussed around the game table that night. There was universal agreement that our recollections were slipping. We all confessed to walking from one room to another room to retrieve an item, only to forget what we were after once we got there. Misery loves company.

To help me keep track of what medications I have to take and when, I use something at which I recently scoffed. I fill a pillbox, four slots per day, with my medications. None of the spaces goes empty.

Filling my personal pharmaceutical dispenser has an ancillary benefit besides organizing my pills. Every time I restock the thing I realize another week has passed. It works better than a calendar.

The table talk revealed that I was fortunate compared to others. I usually have no problem sleeping. Other seniors wish they could, or require machines to keep them from inadvertently holding their breath at night.

Of course the evening I wrote this, I couldn’t sleep. See what I mean?

I won’t mention the gray hairs, or in my case, baldness that foretells our age. I only see the wrinkles and crows feet on the faces of others. Mine is smooth as a baby’s.

Officially defined as the years after retirement, the Golden Years usually begin at age 65. Now that I’ve crossed that demarcation, I feel a little tarnished.

I’ll age as gracefully as I can. After all, I need all the grace I can get.

kayak, sunset, Bruce Stambaugh

The sun is setting on the baby boomer generation as they paddle into retirement. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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Celebrating more than a birthday

siblingsbybrucestambaugh

Our birthday gathering.

By Bruce Stambaugh

There we all were. The five Stambaugh “kids” gathered around a common table, celebrating another birthday. This wasn’t any old birthday either. Wait. I better rephrase that.

We were gathered to celebrate the oldest sibling’s very special day, his 70th birthday. All but one of our spouses joined in the merrymaking, too.

We met in a nice restaurant that the birthday boy chose. It was centrally located, which made it easy for us to assemble. Given our ages, stations in life, and individual schedules, it was a rare treat to gather together.

The food was excellent. The fellowship was better.

Despite the din in the open, high ceiling eatery, the conversation around the table was lively and animated. It reminded me of meals at dinnertime at the little brick bungalow where we all grew up in the suburbs of Canton, Ohio.

Craig was the only pre-World War II child in our immediate family. The rest of us were all of the Baby Boomer generation. Consequently, there was never a dull moment in the Stambaugh household. That’s what always made for lively interaction at mealtime in our younger years.

Take the time my older brother bet me a nickel that I couldn’t eat a spoonful of mustard. As I recall, I got the nickel, but Craig really won the wager.

I marveled at the table talk that evening. You would have thought we were all children again by the enthusiasm and joyous chatter. I liked that a lot. Our late parents taught us well.

There was one main difference, however. Instead of acting like children, we talked about our children and grandchildren. They are scattered from New York City to Orlando, Florida and many places in between.

brickbungalowbybrucestambaugh

The house that our father built and where all of us “kids” grew up.

Growing up, it wasn’t always so lovey dovey. We quibbled and quarreled and played together throughout our childhood. But being four years or more ahead of the rest of the clan, Craig’s recollection of times gone by enjoins a wider view of our family history. I’m trying to be kind here.

Take the time when I was a toddler, and Craig was charged with watching me while Mom focused on other agenda. Craig was specifically told to make sure that I didn’t step into our yet to be seeded front yard, which was one giant mud hole.

When our mother heard the wailing from the front yard, she rushed to my rescue. My shoes were stuck fast smack in the middle of the mud, and Craig was nowhere to be found.

I was much too young to remember that traumatic experience. Craig was not, however. To his credit, Craig is the one who told the story.

We always teased Craig that as the oldest he was the favorite in the family. In fact, I bribed the preacher at our mother’s funeral to say that Mom had had an only child and then four children. Mischief sometimes masquerades for love.

Craig may have hit 70, but the rest of us are right on his heels. Our celebrative gathering was far more than a birthday bash. It was recognition of the kinship we all share, and the unspoken affection we all have for one another.

Though it wasn’t a surprise party, I know my big brother thoroughly enjoyed the time. One of his daughters told me that being together was the best gift we could have given him.

Growing up, birthdays were always special days in the Stambaugh household. I’m glad they still are.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

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Does this mean I’m officially retired?

By Bruce Stambaugh

Last year it was Medicare. This time it’s Social Security.

When I turned 65, I had to sign up for Medicare as my primary medical insurance. It’s the way the program has successfully worked since its inception. You hit the magic number and you’re in.

hoarfrostbybrucestambaughI’ve had no problem using the insurance since I was enrolled. I did, however, have an internal issue with it. I looked in disbelief at the Medicare card on which my name was boldly printed.

Could I really be this old? When my next birthday rolled around, I was over my denial. I had accepted my age and the fact that I am definitely in the autumn of my life.

In truth, I wasn’t expecting to receive anything from Social Security. Having been a public educator as my first career, I had always been told I likely wouldn’t get much from Social Security, even if I had the required number of quarters to qualify, which I did.

I decided to check anyhow. I had worked my way through college, and after my 30 years in education, I dabbled in marketing for local businesses as my second career. All the while I had paid into the government retirement plan.

I called the local Social Security office in Wooster, Ohio and told them my situation. They asked a couple of questions, and said someone would call me back in the afternoon. I didn’t hold my breath.

A mere two hours later the person who handles calculating individual benefits called and gave me my numbers. They weren’t great, but more than I had anticipated.

nocrabbingbybrucestambaughI weighed my options, and decided to go for it. I was told it was best to enroll online. I did, and surprisingly, the process only took 15 minutes.

A couple of Saturday mornings later, the phone rang. The caller ID showed it was the Social Security Administration. Why would they be calling on a Saturday morning? I answered the phone to find out.

The bubbly lady who was calling from Chicago first verified that she was indeed speaking to the right person. She asked me one question, did a quick calculation, and came back with the exact same information that the nice man from Wooster did.

Then she asked to speak to my wife. I put Neva on the phone, and she answered several questions for the upbeat woman. I motioned to Neva that I wanted to talk with the Social Security representative again.

When they had finished, Neva handed me the phone, and I told the lady I was surprised that she was calling on a Saturday morning. She quickly explained that so many of us Baby Boomers were signing up for Social Security that the office was swamped.

“The overtime pay is nice, too, just in time for the holidays,” she said with an honest, hearty laugh. I chuckled, too.

I thanked her for her efficiency and kindness, and wished her blessings for the holidays. She returned the same for my family and me.

When I hung up, my wife related that the kind woman noticed that Neva would be eligible for Medicare this year, which is why she wanted to speak to her. So she signed Neva up for that.

Imagine that. A government worker, who some would call a bureaucrat, went above and beyond the call of duty by being proactive on a Saturday morning. Neva and I were both pleased and impressed.

I received my first Social Security deposit right on time. I still have one question though. Does that mean I am really retired?

autumnofmylifebybrucestambaugh

As I enter the autumn of my life, I hope all the views are this colorful.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

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Mixed emotions about joining the Medicare crowd

Sunrise by Bruce Stambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

There is a difference between thinking young and thinking that you are young.

Despite what I see in the mirror every morning and my occasional childish behavior, I believe that I still think young. I readily acknowledge that I am no longer young. The baldhead, gray whiskers and skin creases are obvious hints.

My body reminds me I’m no longer a spring chicken as well. With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, I could count the ways. I am pretty sure, however, no one wants to hear about my aches and pains. Mine are insignificant compared to those of others.

Sun rays by Bruce StambaughNevertheless, with my 65th birthday on the horizon, I am now a certified, card-carrying member of Medicare. When the card came in the mail recently, I didn’t know whether to smile or cry. It was sobering to see my name boldly printed on that red, white and blue card. Reality, as difficult as it was to accept, hit hard.

Facts are facts. The truth is that I am entering the last quarter of my life, assuming the best. I have to be realistic about who I am and what possibly lies ahead. I know I could get hit crossing the road retrieving the mail. However, with longevity in my family, I expect to live another 20 to 30 years.

The key of course is how I live them, not how long I live them. Isn’t that the case for each and every one of us?

I try to take good care of myself in every aspect of my life, physically, mentally, and spiritually. When the weather permits, I try to walk at least 30 minutes everyday. Walking not only exercises my body, but stirs my mind as well.

White-crowned sparrow by Bruce StambaughThe brisk stroll invigorates my muscles and gets my blood flowing. The soft, cheery call of the White-crowned Sparrows singing from the creek-side brush uplifts my mood.

Greeting the scholars gathering for another day of lessons at the one-room Amish school I pass brings back many fond memories of my own days in the classroom, both as a student and an educator. The hearty wave of my friend, Martha, reminds me how blessed I am and have been. Like a brilliant double rainbow, friends enrich my spirit.

Inspirations like those keep me going. I think back and recall the good times, allowing them to override any and all negative experiences, and there have been plenty. It is easy to come to a simple conclusion. I am grateful.

The secret to living a full, happy life is no secret at all. Bringing joy to others is really what it’s all about. In life’s daily clamor, it’s easy to lose sight of that basic fact.

Maren by Bruce Stambaugh

Maren, 3.

If I have learned anything in my first 64 years, it is this: Blessing others by what I do, say and write blesses me. I know I have fallen short too many times. The key is to keep on trying. A simple kindness like holding the door for someone will suffice.

I didn’t expect signing up for Medicare to be so traumatic or reflective. I sighed to myself, accepted the card and tucked it away in the most appropriate place in my wallet, right behind the pictures of my grandchildren.

That way whenever I need to pull out the card that says I’m old, the shining eyes and effusive smiles of my grandchildren will keep me young.

Grandsons by Bruce Stambaugh

Davis, 6, and Evan, 8.

This column appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

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At my age, “old” is a relative term

Reflections by Bruce Stambaugh

Reflections in a farm pond near Benton, Ohio.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Soon I’ll be 63. I used to think that age was ancient. I probably was 36 then.

Of course, there was a time when I viewed 36 as old. I was probably 18. When I was nine, 18 was old. You get the pattern. “Old” is a relative term.

I am not saying that I don’t feel my age. I do. I say that because whoever said 60 is the new 50 must have been 50. They sure weren’t 60.

Ever since I hit the big 6 0, an invisible physical switch seems to have been flipped. I eat less and gain more. I tire too easily, but find consistent restful sleep evasive. I have far less hair than five years ago, and what’s left is mostly gray.

My memory isn’t as sharp as it once was, my dexterity not as nimble. Aches and pains seem the rule rather than the exception they once were, even after only moderate exercise.

I might feel the various bodily effects of aging, but my mind says I’m still young at heart. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that I sometimes act like I’m still 18. But after a half dozen tosses of the baseball to my grandson, my arm feels like it will fall off.

I recently spent an inspirational afternoon with a handful of young people, all in their 20’s. The outing was intended to be an opportunity for quiet reflection and introspection.

When it was time to share at the end of the retreat, I told those assembled that I really felt for them. Here they all were, young, talented, each one much smarter than me, and yet, they were struggling to find jobs that fit their training, experiences and dreams.

I shared how it was so much different for baby boomers like me when we were their age. We graduated from college, and we could basically name our price and place to work. They all laughed when I said, “And I chose Killbuck, Ohio.”

It was one of the best decisions I ever made. Killbuck Elementary School was where I began my teaching career. I was 21, right out of college with a degree in journalism. The only education class I had had was driver education.

That didn’t matter. There was a teacher shortage, and since I had a bachelor’s degree and heartbeat, I was offered a contract 20 minutes into my interview. I made $6,000 that first year, and $186 more the second.

But like most educators, I clearly didn’t teach for the money. I taught because I loved the kids, the personal interaction, the daily battle between routines and spontaneous interruptions, the classroom characters, and the challenging instructional process. In all that, I felt welcomed with open arms and loving hearts.

Sure there were things I detested. Every job has that. That’s where age has an advantage. I have found it more convenient, healthier, and safer to let the good memories override the bad.

I told that crew of young people that I never ever expected that we would be in a situation where good jobs would be so scarce. In hindsight, I realize just how fortunate I was back then, salary not withstanding.

My birthday is my personal reminder that time is short. I want to be as productive, as positive, and as purposeful as possible. You never know what tomorrow will bring.

I want to get up everyday with a spring in my step, a song in my heart and an audacious hope that I will remain forever young regardless of how “old” I am or will be.

One room school by Bruce Stambaugh

The one room Beechvale School near Benton, Ohio has been abandoned for several years.

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