Goodbye 70 Candles, Hello 80

Ellen, Age 80

I turned 80 18 days ago, on March 10, 2021, which means I have officially reached my ninth decade. No big deal, you say? I don’t think of myself as a particularly reflective person; I’m more of a doer—always busy, even during Covid, still employed, many projects. But there is something different about 80. Even in only 18 days, I think about death now…not my own, for some reason…but the death of my loved ones, my friends, and particularly my husband’s. He is also 80—a healthy and robust 80 year old who hikes and bikes and just finished writing a book about Chaucer’s The Wife of Bath. He talks about things like artificial intelligence and dark matter and the movement of the sun and moon—topics I consider more or less above my pay grade, but topics that suggest a very good brain. So why does my brain turn to his death now that I’m 80? Because I know the stats. Because I look around and see how many age-mates have lost their spouses. I swear I just about never, maybe never at all, thought about the possibility of widowhood until 18 days ago.
What else feels different now? It’s hard to separate what’s Covid/quarantine-related, and what’s age related, so for now I’ll leave it at that: the dread of losing my husband, of a life without the guy I laugh with every day. And what will I do about this? I will cherish the present and be grateful for what I have now; I will indulge in nostalgia; I will continue to plan for our future together. And I will laugh at myself. I just ordered Advice for Future Corpses (and Those Who Love Them): A Practical Perspective on Death and Dying, by Sallie Tisdale, recommended by a psychologist pal who knows me well. And I’ll probably start a new research project on this new decade to see how others are doing!!

This entry was posted in 70candles, Aging, Attitudes about aging, Death and dying, Family matters, HUMOR, Looking ahead, Men aging, Nostalgia, Sad about aging, Widows’ choices and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Goodbye 70 Candles, Hello 80

  1. Susan says:

    I wish people would write more. Each entry is beautiful and so heartfelt.

    Death comes in many ways. For me, it was the death of my marriage. 28 years of marriage, 30 together. That chapter of my life completed in 1999. It took all my courage to want more for myself. It is in many ways, the age old story. We grew apart. It wasn’t just that he was cheating on me and had been, probably, for many years. It was more than he cheated our family by his incessant self-absorption. Learning he gave me an STD was the final straw. Lots of surgery ensued and I am fine and STD free.

    I turn 75 this fall. Grateful I had the opportunity to go back to college, grad school and have several careers. I did date for a while but frankly, the walking wounded out there was more than I wanted to handle.

    I moved nearly 1200 miles to be closer to my daughter and youngest grandchild. Like any mother would hope, she has her own life. She went through a divorce two years ago and is in a much better place. And independent.

    I’ve been her sitter helping her out often. My granddaughter is in first grade so my assistance is required less and less. We do get together but this generation’s free time seems very limited.

    I’m glad to be getting more of my personal time back and I still see the two of them. What I would like is to have a companion, someone who has their own home, own income and who wants to be monogramous.

    In the area I live, there are few men my age who are healthy and single. Now that we are able to go out and about post-Covid (I moved here just before the pandemic and didn’t know anyone) I am getting into more groups. The days are long now and I am slowing down more. The mind is still active and I can still find humor in this.

    But death comes in many forms. And in many situations. We start out with self and we close with self. I’ve come to be philosophical about all of this because it is all that we really have. Ourselves. Lucky are the ones who are happy in their senior relationships. I won’t have the death of a partner at advanced age, I had it in the relationship at 50.

  2. theresa lasalle says:

    Ellen…love your reality and your optimism at the same time.
    You made my morning for so many reasons.
    You be good to yourself woman.
    Much love and happiness to you….

  3. Jacqueline Dondzil says:

    I turned 74 on March 8th. Death has been with me very much since I almost lost my husband from cancer 6 years ago. He came very close to the grim reaper. Was just telling my daughter today that if he goes first, I dread and fear waking up the day after he dies. You know, when you’re half awake and reality suddenly hits you right between the eyes. We are as prepared as we can be, i.e., he is constantly telling me where all the important papers are, when and how to file the taxes, asking me questions about how I would handle this and that scenario on my own. Sounds grim, huh? Not so. We live each day in as much of the present as we can. I just joined a gym and hired a personal trainer because I am a couch potato and wanted to be able to move if I make it to my 80s. He is a home body, loves puttering around the house, while I am the social bug. Death is imminent in our future. It came so close and we lived with it for a couple of years. It doesn’t freak me out like it used to. I am much more fearful of one of us becoming incapacitated. In the meantime, we are enjoying these wonderful years with their gifts and their problems, just as we have for the past 50 years together!

  4. Patricia Farber says:

    The article is very timely. I think (maybe too much) about being alone. I am 74 my husband 78 while I thank God for this much time together (2nd marriage) I worry myself sick everyday thinking of what will happen when the big event happens.
    My son is 4 hours away, I don’t know how, or cannot even pull the generator for hurricanes, I had always paid the bills when I was with my first husband. My second wanted to take care of it so it did and now I don’t know what’s what.
    I just lost my beautiful loving Weimaraner and while she is not human there is no thing that could have showed me more love than this baby. It has beenl 5 wks and have at least one cry a day for Katie. Probably Pandemic makes me miss her more though I doubt it. Death is all around, no need to say who. I am not worried about dying I am worried about being left and surviving in this crazy world. Friends would be nice but now I have none. I am thinking antidepressants there is only so much meditation will do and I have foot problems so walking is not easy. I am a born worrier so now at this stage it seems that is all I do. Any thought? Thank you.

  5. Diana Joubert says:

    I turned 76 on April 24 and I keep waiting for someone to tell me ‘my god, you have the energy/mind/attitude of a 35-year-old.’ So far no one has.
    Probably for good reason.

    Fifty years of marriage – good and bad moments. But life as we know it will never be the same when there’s only one of us left.

    COVID has made us all aware of the fragility of life. Add age to that and it’s a reality check.

    Where do we go from here?

  6. What a beautifully written, reflective article. Thank you for sharing your insightful thoughts and wisdom! Congratulations to you and your husband for living life to the fullest and exemplifying that age is simply a number!

  7. Evelyn Eskin says:

    Oh, Ellen, this resonated with me! I have had similar feelings in the 3 months since I turned 80. There is a sense of treasuring each bike ride together and a worry when he’s a little later coming home than I expected. I fret when I can’t do the side planks I used to do, and when I get short of breath while walking – is it really just the mask? But I try to put these things out of my mind and focus on the good days, the things and times we enjoy together, and remember that each day is precious to us at any age. Happy birthday, and enjoy your privileged, healthy life!!

    • Ellen Cole says:


      • Gerrie Howard says:

        What a lovely article. I am mid-seventies and my husband is in his eighties. Lockdown has given me a lot of room for thought as I was unable to do my voluntary work. Your article is so inspiring and makes me realise that living for the moment is what counts, not ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. Today is what counts. Thank you for your inspiring article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *