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Opinion >  Column

Front Porch: “Cusp” years can be just as sweet and meaningful as milestones

Earlier this month my husband and I celebrated a cusp anniversary.

Cusp events are any ones that occur just before The Big One, examples being a 20th birthday or a 24th high school reunion. Or, in our case, our 49th wedding anniversary.

Boy, 49 years sounds like forever, but, as probably anyone knows who has been married that long or longer, when looking back, it hardly seems like any time at all. But then you catch a glimpse of that old person in your mirror and you realize that, indeed, time really has slipped by.

Everyone’s list will be different, of course, but it’s a little daunting when I think of it all – moving across the country, Vietnam War and military service, starting careers, changing careers, having children, losing parents, getting those kids raised and launched, illnesses, victories and disappointments, deaths of friends, adjusting to the physical changes that come with advancing years and coming to understand that there’s still so much to learn. And the very best of it, still having that life partner who shares it all – though not in lock step – and who, and I don’t know how he does it, still gets me. Bless him.

I’ve been thinking that the older we get, our cusp events are just as meaningful and should not be held hostage to the big one upcoming. I am reminded of when my Aunt Mary and Uncle Hy celebrated their own 49th anniversary several decades ago. Although he played handball a couple of times a week, he did have a serious heart condition, and my aunt thought that rather than waiting for their 50th, they should have a big family event for their 49th, just in case. And so they did. He died several months later.

I realize you can’t live your life as if every day could be your last because if you did, you would likely be broke or seriously in debt, possibly dissipated and no doubt do more harm to yourself through reckless behavior than would be prudent. At least that would be the case if you jumped into that philosophy too young. As you make your way in the world, there has to be some delayed gratification, setting priorities, deferring to other people’s needs and all that if you want to have some security and, at the very least, stay out of jail.

But I’m beginning to warm to the idea that once you hit 70 or so, maybe it’s OK to not wait until a better time to redo that landscaping you’ve been putting up with for so long. Or to call your cousin several time zones away not just on her birthday and Christmas but whenever the heck you feel like it. Or go to a performance by yourself if there’s nobody readily available to accompany you. These may not be big celebratory things, but they are the things that make up our lives. Do them now.

Several years ago I began going back home to Florida by myself to visit family and friends. One quite elderly friend there thought it terribly brave of me to do this by myself, especially as I had to drive all over the state to see everyone. Not really. My normal travel mate, my lovely husband, was at home making a living, couldn’t easily take three weeks off when I needed to go, pretty much hates Florida and hates even more sitting in the living rooms of people he hardly knows chatting about the same things over and over and not being able to hear very well what they’re saying in the first place. He is grateful I go by myself and enjoys every one of my adventures there, vicariously.

My elderly friend is gone now, and I would have missed so many delightful visits with her had I not gone off by myself. If anything, it was maybe selfish of me to go, not brave. And Bruce has resumed skiing again a few years ago, at my prodding. He had abandoned this passion when I was no longer able to participate. He loves to ski, so up the mountain he now goes again, happily. A little guiltily at first, but he got over it. And we both enjoy every minute of it – me, vicariously.

So my pearls of wisdom are to let cusp events be as big and important as you want them to be at the very moment they occur and do not wait until the perfect time to do something (within reason) when the perfect time is likely right now.

Carpe diem.

Voices correspondent Stefanie Pettit can be reached by email at Previous columns are available at

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