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Emails to my Therapist

Big Big Birthdays…Husband Turns Eighty! Golly!

Hi, Nicholas, I know that turning eighty sounds like a trifle to anyone who has already done it, but for those of us who haven’t, it’s a significant figure. A Big Birthday. A Grand Occasion.

Husband Bob is pleased to arrive on Friday February 4, (tomorrow) at this lofty point in life, then to venture on toward eighty-one and more.

At four months, winner of a beautiful baby contest!

I am happy for the chance to celebrate the moment with him. He had a close call a few years ago that almost ended that chance, and I’ve had a fresh edge of appreciation for our life together ever since. And he’s had a bout of cancer since then, now well-resolved.

We are happy to be alive in this fast-rushing whitewater river. As I texted a friend this morning, “We live in perilous times.” I might have better said, “We’re at a  vulnerable age.” But of course, we always were.



The Pleasures and Perils of Golden Pond

There is so much that is cool about being old. So much stuff that used to bother me a lot bothers me only a little now. And “looking good for one’s age” is at least as much fun and a lot less trouble than trying to look good ever was. I think the world has lowered expectations for me in every way, which gives me a spacious feeling. (I’ll surprise them all! Just wait!)

But eighty gets my attention. As if it were my birthday. It’s still seven years away for me. (I have a feeling 75 is going to get my attention when, I hope, it arrives.)

Cool Rocker Bob (far left) in high school quartet

I’ve been extraordinarily lucky myself in health matters. All problems have been relatively small and fixable. I did learn a couple of weeks ago that a suddenly stiff knee probably has a touch of arthritis, but I have an appointment Monday for physical therapy and that has always solved such problems before. A few good stretches and I’m immortal.

I remember decades ago seeing the movie On Golden Pond and wondering how people (Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn)so much closer to death than to birth could even go about their daily business. How could they deal with the pain of knowing how soon life might end?


Doctor Bob, uncharacteristically formal (but I love this picture)

Denial and Faith

I’m now at that stage of life and finding that it doesn’t worry me much. The thought of dying myself doesn’t trouble me. I still don’t entirely believe it’s going to happen. And then there’s faith to fall back on, in case I’m wrong. I’m mostly convinced that in some way we live on. So: denial and faith, great defenders. They work well together.

I do have fears about others keeling over, having already dealt with such losses. But Bob has proved to be extraordinarily resilient in his recoveries from everything that has ever ailed him. I’m proud of his feisty returns to health, as if he’d won seven Super Bowls, though I know it would not be a fault of his if he hadn’t recovered. We don’t have a great deal of control over these matters.

All of this comes to mind now, of course, with the matter of eighty.

Grandpa Bob (who is also still Doctor Bob, Rocker Bob and Bobby)

Numbers Are Only Symbols

I’m getting Bob an ice cream cake (spoiler alert!) with eight candles. And at the same time, I agree that the best policy is to forget the numbers. (Never have liked them. Numbers were over for me when I arrived at Algebra II.)

I know you’re speeding toward a Big Birthday yourself, Nicholas, a number hard to ignore. I welcome any tips on forgetting numbers and/or properly celebrating them. May we all cruise happily to a festive 200 and more!







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  • Brent Bill
    February 3, 2022 at 3:13 pm Reply

    Happy Birthday, Bob! Hope you’re special day is grand!

    • Peggy Payne
      February 3, 2022 at 3:22 pm Reply

      Will pass the word. Thanks, Brent!

  • Brent Bill
    February 3, 2022 at 3:14 pm Reply

    your special day. yikes! such bad spelling.

    • Peggy Payne
      February 3, 2022 at 3:22 pm Reply

      Didn’t even notice. The message transcended the minor details.

  • February 3, 2022 at 3:20 pm Reply

    Happy birthday, Bob! A mighty number but I also think our age could be measured in spirit and that measure is mighty too. 🙂 The interesting thing I find as I age is that I still feel about the same inside as when I was 19. I do think I’m wiser, and calmer, but I don’t feel older. My body is different and what it can do is different, but I’m finding that process less difficult than I imagined it would be. I am definitely more content and capable of viewing even the tiniest things as triumphs and joys. Getting a particularly stubborn dog mat humanely removed from one of our pack can be a highlight of an hour! I’m not sure why this is, but I experience it every day now, with many little things. Enjoy the celebration. 8 is also infinity!

    • Peggy Payne
      February 3, 2022 at 3:25 pm Reply

      Thanks for pointing out the infinite nature of 8, Billie. You seem to be doing the aging thing very well. I feel about the same as I always have except for changes at 32 (psychotherapy) and 48 (really good medication.) What turns out to be my core self (I think) is unchanged. Enjoy your triumphs!

  • Henry Scott
    February 3, 2022 at 3:27 pm Reply

    A beautiful story! This septuagenarian is happy to have found it. It brightens my day in cloudy NYC

    • Peggy Payne
      February 3, 2022 at 3:30 pm Reply

      Happy to brighten your day, Henry. I hope you’re finding a good New York life these days. It’s one of my favorite places in the world. Has always been my Plan B (which it will likely stay.)

  • Linda Franklin
    February 3, 2022 at 3:27 pm Reply

    I love this post! Especially all the photos of Bob who happens to be on of my favorite people on the planet! You can tell him that. Love to you both.

    • Peggy Payne
      February 3, 2022 at 3:28 pm Reply

      Will tell him, Linda. Thank you!! I enjoyed spending the time with those photos

  • kenju
    February 3, 2022 at 3:34 pm Reply

    Happy eighty, Bob. You were a beautiful boy and handsome in college, and no doubt still a looker. Eighty is the same as 60 and 70……life goes on (we hope). I can say that from my lofty perch at 81, it is definitely more desirable than the alternative. Keep on keeping on.

    • Peggy Payne
      February 3, 2022 at 3:37 pm Reply

      Definitely still a looker, kenju. And thank you. I’m glad you’re keeping on yourself!

  • Anonymous
    February 3, 2022 at 3:48 pm Reply

    Although we haven’t met, send my happy birthday greetings to Bob

    • Peggy Payne
      February 3, 2022 at 3:51 pm Reply

      He is pleased to receive your birthday greetings, Anon. Thank you!

  • Shirley Jennett
    February 3, 2022 at 4:23 pm Reply

    I’m facing the dreaded 80 this spring too..thanks for making it seem..” not so frightening”.

    • Peggy Payne
      February 3, 2022 at 4:25 pm Reply

      I’m happy to, Shirley. And it does help to do these things in company.

  • Robert Braxton
    February 3, 2022 at 5:12 pm Reply

    Spouse and I are the “babies” of our NYC seminary contemporaries – Beth 1943 has living brother born 1929 retired MD Walnut Creek, CA – best wishes = to Life! my sister Martha was born 05 February before my sixth, Mama’s fourth (of 8 children) child!

    • Peggy Payne
      February 3, 2022 at 5:15 pm Reply

      May all of you make it to triple figures, Bob!

  • February 3, 2022 at 6:44 pm Reply

    Heartfelt Thanks for all these birthday wishes, and I intend to have many more. Fine post Peggy, with good old pictures, and I’m Happiest to share this birthday with you Love bob

    • Peggy Payne
      February 3, 2022 at 6:49 pm Reply

      The pictures are a delight to me, Bob. I keep looking at them all again. Happy Birthday, love!!

  • Peggy Payne
    February 3, 2022 at 8:50 pm Reply

    Tips from Nicholas on dealing with big birthdays and age:
    “Stay in the present! Stay connected!
    Deal with what’s in front of you!
    Love always!”

  • February 4, 2022 at 1:19 am Reply

    Thank you, Peggy, for this reminder that age is a number. Although the ‘Big 8’ is really getting up there (and I am, indeed, getting up there), it’s also a destination I am grateful to be invited to reach. My maternal grandmother lived to be 99, so my genes are advising me I’ve still got time to work out my meaning.

    • Peggy Payne
      February 4, 2022 at 1:56 am Reply

      The Big 8– for me a new way to think of it. Good you have your grandmother’s genes, and with improved healthcare you’ll likely live longer than she did. That’s the logic I’m using (my mother lived to 96 and in excellent shape most of the way.)

  • February 21, 2022 at 8:34 pm Reply

    […] one day I wrapped all the presents for Bob’s 80th birthday, crawling around on the floor, followed by re-arranging all the cleaning products and junk […]

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