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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Turning the big 6-0

The cake for Carol Edwards’ 60th birthday.
The cake for Carol Edwards’ 60th birthday.

In a few weeks I will be 60 years old. No other age has rattled me quite like this looming one. Even the numerals themselves portend the coming decade: round without angles and coming full circle. Perhaps other birthday numerals did, too.

At 18, the figure 8 illustrates our scurrying in circles when leaving high school, seeking a direction, sometimes getting nowhere. And 21 announces the individual as an emancipated adult, free to decide direction – at least legally. That 1 stands tall and confident. In our 30s, with that 3, we appear open to whatever comes our way – spouse, children, new opportunities, while 40 closes up with decisions made and held close.

The decade of 50 tells the story of integrating pieces of ourselves – with angles and direction atop, giving in to imprecise drooping curves at the bottom. Yes, that is what happens in our 50s. We start out so definite about life and soften with time and perspective. Bumpy roads can do that. And drooping bottoms show up, too.

So 60? Hmmm.  At 60 we come full circle: we care for aging parents, who once cared for us. We embrace what has meaning and discard the rest. And gifts? No tangibles, please. I want to enjoy friends and family, a healthy meal shared, or laughter over decaf skinny coffee; and morning Mass, my birthday tradition, is a must. I am profoundly grateful for the people who have loved me along the road to 60: an amazing mother and a loving dad, hilarious sisters – now my friends, too, and everyone who showed up in good times and bad. You know who you are.

So, perhaps the 60s are a time for thanking those who brought us full circle when they offered laughter, guidance, truth, example, kindness, expertise, faith – gifts that sustain. And so, dear readers, as I approach the seemingly scary age of 60: Grazie a tutti.

Spokesman-Review features writer Rebecca Nappi, along with writer Catherine Johnston of Olympia, Wash., discuss here issues facing aging boomers, seniors and those experiencing serious illness, dying, death and other forms of loss.