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The new world of octogenarianism

By GERRY POSNER Recently, a group of six old time friends whose roots were in Winnipeg, reunited in Palm Desert, California to celebrate a new digit for them in their age as in an “8.” To their dismay a zero came after it. They never contemplated that when they were eight. The years seemed to have gathered steam and as some of them say, they are now on the slope heading down ever faster. Confession – I am part of this group of octogenarians.

Now, to be exact, of the six of us, one of us turned 80 in 2022 and another will not reach that lofty status until August. But in the big picture, it is 480 years all together. The six of us include: Dr. Ted Lyons a name familiar to many readers; Michael Nozick, another well known name; Larry Booke, whose name is the name of the accounting firm he led for many years as in Booke and Partners; Sheldon Gilman of Los Angeles, whose father was also a prominent accountant in Winnipeg before moving in the 1960s to Kansas City, Missouri, where he and his wife Helen remained; Dr. Irv Tessler, a psychiatrist living up in northern California in the redwood country and me. The picture accompanying the article identifies the faces to the names. Yes, I suppose you are saying to yourself or anyone around you, whatever happened to these guys? When I knew them, they were young and looked good ( well, if not good, at least decent).

The good news is that we are all still in the game and we know it. We all recognize that we were privileged to have grown up in the best of times and in the best of places. We knew a time when television only made its way into the Winnipeg world in 1954, when we were only 11. We, of course, knew not of computers, iPhones, or social media. Our social media was gathering together after school, AZA and USY. We grew up when crime in Canada was relatively minor and infrequent, when people left their keys in the car, when we were allowed to stay outdoors alone until the street lights came on and when the closest we came to a weapon was playing “Knifey.” Our bonds were strong as that was the foundation for friendship with no real distractions. We were far from the only group to have and maintain this kind of a relationship over the years. I know of others, older and younger, who have had similar close friendships as they too were part of this golden era.

For about the last ten years, we have assembled in the Palm Springs area, sometimes with spouses and sometimes not, and have spent about five days together at the very least. We are not so steeped in the past that we do not make it to the present – far from that realm. Yet, we do spend a great deal of time remembering what was both good and bad. Mostly our memories of the past are filled with nostalgia for what we had and worry for what the future holds for our grandkids. That subject is good for many lively discussions. What is impressive is that we try to stay away from political topics as we have within our group, a wide range of opinions ranging from a lover of Tucker Carlson and company to a supporter of MSNBC. The two views, from right to left are far removed from one another with the rest of the group somewhere in between. Wisely, we change subjects when we veer into the political arena.

The area most talked about when we meet seems to be health related. There is no lack of discussion on that subject. In the big picture, we are doing ok, but there are issues for us, a not so surprising circumstance for six AK’s. Surgeries we have had – from back to hip to knee to heart, not to forget my two hernia operations. Still, we are out there and we even had three of us playing Pickleball in Palm Springs this year at a decent level, so we have life in us still. In fact, three of the group still suits up for work every day or close to it.

When it it all said and done, probably our greatest accomplishment is that collectively we have 15 kids and those 15 kids have added 26 grandchildren to the total. I suspect these grandchildren will never meet or in fact even know of one another for the most part. But, at age 80, it is comforting to know we have had some usefulness in at least one area of life.

One might expect that at this so called advanced age, we might have words of wisdom emanating from our lips. My contribution to that topic was my ability to spell the word octogenarian without help from the computer. One of the group suggested that we should recognize that 80 is the new 40, but the aches and pains we suffer when we awaken would belie that thought. Probably our greatest insight is the recognition of just how little we know, irrespective of an ability to do a New York Times Spelling Bee every day and get all the correct answers.

What drives us in part is the desire to keep these California gatherings going for as long as we can. The time together rejuvenates all of us. We know each other well enough that one of us can often finish sentences that somebody else starts. We are linked, bonded and tied in friendships in a way our parents never knew and our grandkids will never know. I told the group I will aim to be there at age 90, if they agree to meet me at this same spot.

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