Jenkins: When the bloom is off the boomer

September 27, 2012 

There, larger than life on the big screen in the back room at the Player’s Retreat in Raleigh, was former News & Observer columnist Dennis Rogers, coming to this crowd via a technological connection pulled off by another former N&O columnist, Mary Miller. The occasion was the 60th birthday of your correspondent.

Miller, who’s back in town after eight years away with her husband Bob Geolas, now president of the Research Triangle Park Foundation, and their four kids, insisted on tossing the party, doubtless in a weak moment.

So she rounded up Dennis and his wife, HollyAnn, on the coast of Oregon, where they had parked their RV for awhile. To answer the anticipated questions about this local legend (for that matter, an Eastern North Carolina legend) he’s doing fine and still full of wisdom. When Dennis announced on his retirement some years ago that he was selling his house and hitting the road, all of us laughed and told him he was a homebody who’d never stay gone long from Down East.

He’s now on his third RV and this one apparently has the square footage of a McMansion.

Anyway, back to the wisdom. This night, Dennis offered: “My man, remember, 60 is the age at which hypochondria becomes reality.” Good grief. I hadn’t even told him about the kidney stones and the upcoming surgery yet.

But such discussions are best avoided once one crosses over one of those “ends in zero” birthdays. And no, I don’t mean like crossing over the river of Jordan. Cute, real cute.

’Tis better to contemplate other markers of the birthday, in this case, to review just how many inventions and phenomena of nature have come into this world since those who are 60 have occupied it.

Take food: We’re older than Goldfish crackers, pizza rolls, instant rice, boil-in bags, high-carb crazes, low-carb crazes, gluten-free crazes and sugar-free chocolate. We had no clue about vegan. We’re older than Trident, Big Red gum, Lemonheads, Starburst and Reese’s Pieces. Except for Trident most of us have given up the rest of it thanks to high blood sugar.

We’re older than the use of the term “free range chicken,” although my grandmother had some chickens and we ate the eggs on occasion, so perhaps we were groundbreakers and didn’t know it. Now we know “free range” as a term than means “more expensive” in the local la-dee-da eatery.

We are older than most packaged health foods and high-fiber and low-sodium diet books. Doubtless these things have extended lives. Although when I was a child, I remember my grandmother ate bacon and eggs every day and baked pies and cakes on weekends. She lived to be 94. Of course, she didn’t touch a drop of alcohol. I’ve given up bacon and eggs and pies and cakes.

We are older than cell phones. Had we known what was going to happen, we could have paid some guys to take the inventors “for a ride.”

Nike, Apple and Microsoft all came into existence some time after we did, even though we had all those ideas and should have been the ones now living in the mansions and hanging out with Warren Buffett, not that we’re bitter.

We grew up without remote control. Now, that’s old. When I tell young people this, they ask things like, “I’m doing a paper in school. Can I interview you about what Cleopatra was really like?”

And simply inconceivable to them: we pre-dated modern color TV. No point in discussing it. They think we’re crazy old people making it up.

We have been around for 12 presidents, or more than a fourth of those who have served since the country’s founding.

We predated “Star Wars” and most of the superheroes.

When we were born, Clint Eastwood had not yet made his first big movie or his first speech at a political convention. He’s not made his last movie, but we probably did get in on his last convention speech.

In 1952, Elizabeth Taylor was already a movie star. No one had heard of, or anticipated hearing of, Justin Bieber and Britney Spears. That’s why we talk about the good old days.

We were on the planet for the birth and death of disco. When we’re bending the knee replacements for nightly prayers, there’s something for which to be grateful.

We were raised, at least in part, by “Father Knows Best,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” and “Leave It to Beaver.” Now people watch “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” and “Survivor.”

And you wonder why we’re glad to be the age we are.

Deputy editorial page editor Jim Jenkins can be reached at 919-829-4513 or at

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