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Emails to my Therapist


Nicholas, I’m turning 70 years old at 2:34 this afternoon. A big birthday to anyone who hasn’t yet achieved it, though I know it’s ho-hum to my eighty-something-ish friends. I want to make a deal out of it–increasingly, I feel big birthdays should get their due– but I haven’t fully decided how.

What I know of my birth is that my mother went into labor shortly after deciding to shovel coal into the furnace and falling backwards into the coal bin.big birthday

Given the added weight of me on her petite frame, she had quite a struggle climbing out. She did get back to her feet–no doubt, sooty–and I was born shortly afterward. I like this story. It feels like a vigorous start to a life.

(Another less auspicious fire: I was 13 days old when my parents’ business, Payne’s Mens Wear, burned down. It was a tiny store in the space that was once the popcorn stand for Wilmington’s Royal Theater. Not an anniversary we celebrated.)

I made a big deal out of my sixteenth birthday by getting my driver’s license and driving my mother’s blue Ford Galaxie straight to the public library. I remember that ride so vividly. I felt the whole world within my reach.

And I made a huge deal out of my sixtieth by spending 18 nights on the Upper West Side in a charming borrowed studio apartment with a sunroom/office.   That was my bonus life as a New Yorker and it totally satisfied my long-running Plan B ambitions to live there. I was 62 before I was able to arrange it, but it still counted as celebrating 60. All the other birthdays I’ve enjoyed without making any big deal about them myself.

big birthday, turning 70

My celebrating-60 New York haircut.




So far I’ve decided that this new decade is going to be celebrated by doing some home improvements, not something I’ve done a lot of in the past. Husband Bob thought this was an excellent idea and wondered what might be burbling underneath this choice. I’m not sure.

“Now or never” might enter into the decision, because for a little over two years loved ones have steadily been having serious health problems and/or dying. I wonder if that’s now the way of things. This situation seems to be a trend for folks my age and older.

I do need a strategy for coping with the fragility of people. Focusing on the present moment and being grateful for the time I’ve had with them isn’t fully doing the trick right now.

Note: I don’t say coping with the fragility of myself. I’m not that far along in the process. That happy obliviousness is one of the side-effects of–so far– good health.

So Bob wants to know where I want to eat for birthday dinner, etc. The question feels too large. Maybe I want to go out for ice cream. Or delay the whole matter. Or have the carpets cleaned.

A Good Number

I’m actually cheerful about the 70 situation, though it may not sound like it. It’s a number with heft and gravitas. A don’t-mess-with-me number. Fifty was like that a bit; 70 even more so.  Also, I’m pleased to have made it this far without causing any disasters, without burning down any buildings.

Perhaps aging can work like this: When I first arrived at college, I felt so sorry for the seniors because they were in their last year and I had a whole four wonderful years ahead of me. By the time I was a senior, I was ready to graduate and go write news stories for The Raleigh Times. Maybe other stages of life are like that: by the time you get there, you’re ready. Certainly, getting old for me isn’t (so far) what it’s often feared to be. I like it. And, Lord knows, I would not want to be twenty-something again. (Though I wouldn’t mind dewy skin and at least 70 years ahead of me.) big birthday, turning 70

Okay, enough of this maundering for now. More later, that’s for sure.

Ever more maturely yours,




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  • Judy Carrino
    January 8, 2019 at 3:19 pm Reply

    I wish you the happiest of birthdays, Peggy. I am ripe at the age of 78, looking forward to 80. Although I cannot remember what I did to celebrate reaching 60 or 70, I think 80 will be a bash of large proportions!

    • Peggy Payne
      January 8, 2019 at 3:35 pm Reply

      And there will be flowers, Judy!!

  • Ron Perkinson
    January 8, 2019 at 3:33 pm Reply

    Peggy- I reached that milepost on my last birthday. I can assure that my hopes, dreams, and fantasies did not miraculously change. They remain as unlikely and far-fetched as always. I hope you find comfort in this. As for 70 more, I rely on Stephen Wright’s comment that he sought immortality by not dieing, and so far it’s working. Just keep waking up! HAPPY DAY!

    • Peggy Payne
      January 8, 2019 at 3:35 pm Reply

      So far it’s working for you and me, too, Ron. Thank you!

  • Robert J Braxton
    January 8, 2019 at 6:52 pm Reply

    I celebrated my big one zero receiving a promised bicycle (of my own) 1954 which I was still enjoying 12 years later (almost) college graduation semester. Thanks to 2008-2009 “economic downturn” I have been reading, writing and now doing genealogy. Two grandchildren 2007 then 2011 – so grandparenting – my seventy was August, 2014 – which in Fifth grade was totally beyond imagining, when early forties seemed ancient from my perspective then! Offspring number five (middle) of my maternal grandparents was born 1934 and died 31st December, memorial service this week at Bethel UMC, Alamance County, where I attended Sunday school prior to age 11.

    • Peggy Payne
      January 8, 2019 at 8:16 pm Reply

      I like the concept of the Big One-Oh, Bob. Though all the numbers were big back then. At that age I thought the 21st century wouldn’t really matter to me because I would be so old by the time it came–I was 51. Glad you got that bike and at a peak moment.

  • Margery Garrabrant. AKA Babysitter
    January 9, 2019 at 1:31 am Reply

    My little “charge”…..continue to live life to the fullest and be grateful for the many things that bring pleasure to you and those you love!! Hey… this stage of you your life you’re doing pretty damn good!!
    Carry on, my dear!!

    • Peggy Payne
      January 9, 2019 at 2:00 am Reply

      Thank you, Margey! You were a fine babysitter for the three of us. I’m glad to have your “pretty damn good.”

  • Alicia Roberts
    January 9, 2019 at 3:27 am Reply

    I turned 73 last September and now my next wish is to make it to 100. My longevity line on both sides of my family is not long . My Mother died at 74 and Daddy died at 74. Three brothers never made it to seventy. Happy 70th birthday to you!

    • Peggy Payne
      January 9, 2019 at 5:04 am Reply

      A fine ambition, Alicia. I’m pulling for you to make it to 100 and beyond. And I’m sorry about so many losses. That’s a lot of brothers to lose early.

  • January 9, 2019 at 4:40 am Reply

    Happiest birthday wishes to you, Peggy. I’ll turn 60 this year, and have decided to celebrate all this year in a variety of ways. i know you will
    create a beautiful year! Keep tending to your health – it is a gift! xo

    • Peggy Payne
      January 9, 2019 at 5:03 am Reply

      And I do wish you health, Ginny! I’m glad you have a list of ways you’re going to celebrate. Sixty is really cool!

  • Rebecca
    January 9, 2019 at 5:19 am Reply

    Just keep on writing Peggy! It touches us all.

    • Peggy Payne
      January 9, 2019 at 2:11 pm Reply

      Oh, thank you, Rebecca! That pleases me so much!

  • January 11, 2019 at 2:37 am Reply

    Write On !

    • Peggy Payne
      January 11, 2019 at 2:54 am Reply

      Will Do!

  • Lee Grohse
    January 13, 2019 at 1:57 am Reply

    Happy big 70! Like you I am experiencing my age through others,, the many who are not holding up their end of the bargain and staying as young as I imagine I am. This year my husband had health problems, my father died and shortly after that a close friend who was 12 years younger and much more athletic and fit than I died unexpectedly. So while I’ve gotten to my late 60s healthy and pretending that I am really 27, others around me are not cooperating with my delusions of youthfulness. I’ll look forward to reading what you come up with in your quest to find ways to deal with this sense of uncertainty. I wanted to say “impending doom” but it seemed a wee bit dramatic even to me.

    • Peggy Payne
      January 13, 2019 at 5:12 am Reply

      You’ve had a rough year, Lee. I’m sorry. I’m also interested in the ways you find to deal with what I think of as the Age of Others Keeling Over. Given a choice, I’d prefer to stay upright. Maybe it would be better if we all phased out at the same time, like a school graduation.

      • Lee Grohse
        January 13, 2019 at 1:42 pm Reply

        I like that . The Age of Others Keeling Over. Well said.

        • Peggy Payne
          January 13, 2019 at 3:12 pm Reply

          Would that we didn’t need such a term.

  • Ruth Sheehan
    January 14, 2019 at 10:36 pm Reply
    By Mary Pipher in Sunday Review this week. Timed perfectly

    • Peggy Payne
      January 15, 2019 at 2:38 am Reply

      Thanks, Ruth. It’s a good piece–very wise. I’m still pretty much into eye make-up myself, but was in agreement with most of the rest. Maybe she’s talking about women who are 72 or 75 and I’ll progress to what she describes.

  • […] in the clothing business, owned a tiny store in a former popcorn stand which, as I’ve noted here before, burned down when I was thirteen days old. They started over in a nearby location. Store is […]

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