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When Exactly Do I Become a “Senior?”

Last weekend I had to travel to Columbia, Missouri, to speak at a conference. I stayed at a Holiday Inn and at 9:00 PM on Friday evening, I realized I’d forgotten to pack my phone charger cord. At this point I was too tired to get dressed and drive to Walmart, so I decided to get up earlier in the morning and hopefully find one that was open before 8:00 AM.

Saturday morning I woke up early, showered, got dressed, and then walked downstairs to the lobby. Normally I would have used my phone to search for the nearest Walmart and see what time they opened, but by now my phone was down to 2% battery life and I thought I might need it for using the GPS to actually find a Walmart.

As I passed through the hotel lobby, I stopped at the check-in desk to ask for help. The girl working the front counter at 7:00 AM looked pretty young and I asked her if there was a Walmart nearby. She said, “I think there’s one close by, but I know for sure there is a Target right across the street.” I said, “I don’t suppose you know what time it opens?” Without hesitation and looking me straight in the eye, she said, “I’m not 100% sure, but I do think they open early for seniors.”

I stood and stared at her in a moment of shock and all I could say was, “Wow! Really?” I suppose she realized what she’d said and trying to recover, blurted out, “Oh, I’m sorry.”

I’ve told this story to several of my friends and it always makes them laugh out loud. Truth be known, I’m 56 years old and my hair is turning gray, I use reading glasses quite often, and I occasionally throw my back out bending over to tie my shoes. I guess that means I’m old, so I shouldn’t be too surprised when a twenty-something insinuates that I’m a “senior,” but it still stings a little.

I remember many years ago at my dad’s 60th birthday party, sitting next to him on the sofa while family members were eating birthday cake. My father had a strange look on his face and I leaned over to ask him what he was thinking. He slowly turned to me and said, “You know, I don’t feel sixty.” I was thirty-five at the time and chuckled, “Well what does that mean?” He said with complete sincerity, “My dad is sixty. I’m not sixty!” As I push toward my “senior” years, I guess I now understand what my father meant by that.

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