Riding Bitch

The daily musings of a writer.

What It Means To Be 84


My father turns 84 today. How is he spending his birthday? By driving across country in his new Porsche, naturally. He bought it a couple of months ago on a whim and promptly described the experience of driving it as “like being in Heaven… without dying.”

Hard to argue with that. Though the Porsche has drawn different reactions from the family. Some think it was a huge waste of money – money that would have been better spent on his grandchildren’s college education, or invested in some stable but profit-earning entity, so it could make more money.

Others think, “Wow, good for him. Let him have fun.” The man has worked hard all his life and never been able to treat himself to something this luxurious. He’s lucky to be of sound body and mind, both of which he sarcastically attributes to “clean living.” To his credit, he did quit smoking in his 40s (half his life ago), and has exercised for at least 30 minutes daily ever since, swimming at his local pool. Despite his remarkable tip-top shape, one can sense that The End is on his mind.

“The Grim Reaper keeps calling and getting the wrong number… but one day he’ll get the right number.”

“I’d rather enjoy the Porsche now, then wait till later and have my funeral in a Porsche.”

What does it mean to be 84 years old in America?

It means you were born in 1929.

For the first 16 years of your life, the only President you knew was Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd U.S. President  1933-1945 [photo source: Wikipedia]

Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd U.S. President 1933-1945 [photo source: Wikipedia]

You were a child of the Great Depression. Your parents either stayed rich, starved, or worked several jobs so that you wouldn’t starve.

Your main source of news, sports, and entertainment growing up was the radio.

You were 9 years old when Orson Welles narrated the radio adaptation of H.G. Wells’s novel The War of the Worlds, which suggested that an alien invasion was currently in progress. 

War of The Worlds by Orson Welles [photo source: skepticalteacher.wordpress.com]

War of The Worlds by Orson Welles [photo source: skepticalteacher.wordpress.com]

You can still remember where you were when you heard the news about Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. You were 12 years old.

The USS Arizona burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor [photo source: wikipedia]

The USS Arizona burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor [photo source: wikipedia]

You were a teenager during World War II.

If you joined the service, you were either in the Korean or Vietnam War.

If you’re African American, no matter where you lived, you undoubtedly experienced some measure of Jim Crow laws, whether having to sit in the back of the bus, drinking from a different water fountain, sitting in a different section of a restaurant or movie theater, or being harrassed for marrying a White woman.

I Am a Man march [photo source: legendsofamerica.com]

[photo source: legendsofamerica.com]

You might have chosen to escape such laws by moving to Canada, Bolivia,  Israel, anywhere but the United States until things changed.

You were 32 years old when Yuri Gagarin became the first man to successfully orbit the Earth in 1961.

Yuri Gagarin [photo source: wikipedia]

Yuri Gagarin [photo source: wikipedia]

You remember where you were when John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and Robert Kennedy were assassinated.

You might have had to move back to the States in the 1970’s because your wife got sick and the States had the best healthcare.

You might have stayed married for 25 years, before separating from but not divorcing your wife, so she could remain on your health insurance.

You worked a job you hated until you retired at the age of 67.

You reconciled with your estranged adult children at the age of 70.

You were 79 years old when Barack Obama became the first Black president, a day you never thought you would see in your lifetime.obama

Now, you’re 84 years old with near perfect health, save for the pacemaker, and 100 % of your mental faculties. Your parents, siblings, colleagues and most of your friends are long gone. Of course, you get a Porsche and drive it across country to see your children and grandchildren and this great big country. 

If not now, when?

[Photo source: James Mayfield, roadloans.com]

[Photo source: James Mayfield, roadloans.com]

Author: nivaladiva

Freelance writer and independent filmmaker.

37 thoughts on “What It Means To Be 84

  1. You are very talented and your Dad is very lively !

  2. Holy shit, Niva. SEPARATED at birth. My Dad is 84…driving right now from Ontario to D.C. to sky-dive with my 34 yr old half-brother (and Dad’s car is a black Jag)…then to Chicago to meet up with his girlfriend., then off to Seattle and B.C….

    Like yours, he is in perfect health, strong as hell and has money. They are very, very lucky men.

  3. Beautifully written and I love the history included! Your dad absolutely deserves that Porsche. I hope he lets you take it for a spin! 😀

  4. I just read the Beloit College Mindset list http://www.beloit.edu/mindset/ that contains information on the class of 2017, those youngsters born in 1995, and enjoyed reading your recitation of what having been born in 1929 meant. It’s a deceptively simple tribute to your father, and also a great read.

  5. Nice blog, Niva. A good read.

  6. Beautiful post! Happy Birthday to your dad! Hopefully he’ll let you take it for a whirl. 🙂

  7. Awesome. Niva-esque, even!

  8. Absolutely! I am on the side of those who are saying “you deserve it; go for it”.
    We are celebrating my parents 80th birthdays next month. I am grateful that they are alive, healthy, and having fun in life.
    It is well deserved after a long life of raising children, working hard, and contributing to the community!
    Good for your dad!
    (very nice post, by the way!)

  9. Fabulous stuff! More power to your Dad, a Porsche at 84, and loving it, what a great old guy. So what about the cost, he lived through all the stuff in your interesting article, so deserves it. I hope he gets a GT40 when he turns 90! Regards to you (and your Dad) from England. Pete.

  10. Ride On Harold! I love reading your blog Niva…keep it coming. xoxo_Alison

  11. Just read it now after riding around Manhattan with Harold (unfortunately not The Porsche) looking to buy him an iPod so that he doesn’t have to bother Barbara with his opera on the way home. Loved this post and now want to read more. Keep it up yo.
    – Malach

  12. Wow. This is so amazing. I love hearing about people such as your dad. It brings some more hope in the world – I think. My parents are gone. Everyone but my boys. How cool is that? I do hope he takes you for a spin!!

  13. I love this post! It makes me so happy. It also makes me think of my Grandma who is turning 95 this year. I went to visit her last weekend and on the way home it hit me that she was born in 1918. I started thinking of all the things she lived through and I couldn’t believe it.

  14. I’m a bit late to the party, but happy belated birthday to Dad. My parents were born in 1922 and 1927, so your post hit a lot of their life highlights, as well. Unfortunately, they have been gone for 14 years now, but I sometimes wonder what my Ma and Pa would be like in their 80’s.
    Both sets of grandparents were born in the 1800’s and my maternal grandmother came out West from Illinois in a covered wagon, actually. So strange to think about one life span and how the world changed around it. Great post, Niva. Thanks for sharing. I’m glad he got his Porsche.

  15. That is so cool. It’s nice to hear about someone your dad’s age that is out there enjoying life. Good for him for splurging after working his whole life. Hopefully it’s in your genes and we can read about you driving your motorcycle across country at 84. 🙂

  16. Wow. Good for him. Nicely written blog. You couldn’t just dash that one off, it had to be researched. So, good for you too! Many thanks for stopping by my blog. I invite you to come back on Friday for a free Flash Fiction story.

  17. Pingback: Birthdays, Milestones and Peacocks | Riding Bitch

  18. Pingback: Birthdays, Milestones and Peacocks | Niva Dorell Smith

  19. Pingback: A New Loss… | Riding Bitch

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s