On Approaching the Big 8-0

By Joe Darby

We humans tend to make big deals out of our birthdays every 10 years and the deals get bigger as time goes on. So, I’m about to achieve the big 8-0, if I safely make it through the next eight days.

It’s something to be proud of, I suppose, although this milestone will be achieved without any help from me, what with my high calorie diet, lack of exercise, etc. Most humans do not get this far, though, and I’m rather surprised I’m about to.

A lot of my friends from earlier days have passed on as well as my beloved wife Mary. Getting old can be a lonely procedure, although I have good support from family and friends.

I was born on Nov. 27, 1941, 10 days before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and brought the US into World War II. I remember only snippets of that conflict because I was not yet 4 years old when it ended. I remember a little of the Harry Truman presidency, seeing him on newsreels at movie theaters. And I’ve witnessed a heck of a lot of history in subsequent years, some of it inspiring and much of it tragic. I’m not really optimistic about the future at this point, but I won’t be around too, too very much longer to have to worry about it.

But, to put my age in perspective, here’s an interesting tidbit. Let’s consider the amount of time since my birth, 80 years ago in 1941. The same amount of time going back into the past is 1861, the year the Civil War started! So my birth is just as close to that historic moment as it is to my present day now. Makes one think, right? By the way, you may want to figure out your own timeline using that little trick.

Anyway, the world I grew up in is so completely different from that of today that someone who jumped ahead from, say 1955, would be utterly astounded, perplexed and perhaps frightened and disappointed. I’m not going to go into all the reasons that would be so, because you know how things are today.

It’s often amazing to me how long ago some of my memories and significant events in my life are now. Sixty-one years since high school graduation, 57 years since finishing LSU. Sixty-four years since I got my first driver’s license. Forty-one years since my father died and 22 years since Mother passed away. Right now, I’m just about in the middle of the death ages of my parents. Daddy passed away with heart disease (he was a heavy smoker) at 71 and Mom made 90, although she had lost her vision because of diabetes and had severe arthritis. I have some health issues, but nothing life threatening now, as far as I know.

It’s been an interesting ride and as a reporter with the New Orleans Times-Picayune from 1965 to 2006, I had some great experiences. I got to fly in military fighter jets, make landings and takeoff from aircraft carriers, met movie stars, a president (Richard Nixon) and many other people of note, as well as exposing some public corruption in Jefferson Parish from time to time.

I don’t know how long I’ll be around, of course — none of us do. I have some regrets, but we must learn to live with those, and I have things to be proud of, if I may say so.

Anyway, I’ll be out of town most of next week, going down to celebrate Thanksgiving and my birthday with family, so there won’t be a column next week. So, dear readers, Happy Thanksgiving to you all and God bless. And may you all have long and happy lives!