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Glazer: Driving 55 in the slow lane, but happy for the trip
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If you research the date Aug. 7, 1954, you won't come up with much. It certainly wasn't a red-letter day in history. A little exploration reveals nothing but a couple of UFO sightings on that date, one in Canada and one in Germany. I'm pretty sure there's no correlation, but that's also the day I was born.

Which means that today I turn 55. I'm now eligible for senior citizen discounts and an AARP card. Actually, the AARP card arrived a few days ago. All I need to do is send in $16 and I'll be a card-carrying member.

As I enter my 55th year, I find myself in good company. Denzel Washington, David Lee Roth, Oprah Winfrey, Howard Stern, Jackie Chan, Kathleen Turner, Patricia Hearst, Condoleezza Rice and Yanni all get their AARP cards this year, too.

A few years ago, David Letterman turned 55. In honor of his birthday, the show featured a list of top 10 good things about turning 55. There was only one item on the list. Number 10 read, "There's nothing good about turning 55."

I can understand the sentiment. At 55, I've begun to feel the cumulative effects from years of ignoring the advice of well-meaning older folks. If I had a nickel for every time I shrugged off suggestions that I lift with my knees, wear low-heeled shoes with good arch supports and monitor my calcium intake, I'd be spending my birthday in front of the Coin Star machine at the grocery store.

Time may be a great healer but it is a horrible beautician. I wish I'd used more sunscreen and less baby oil laced with iodine.

I wish I'd taken to heart the admonition to "Enjoy your babies while they're little. They'll be grown before you know it."

There's a lot of truth there. No new mother ever believes it. We think teething and tantrums and potty training go on forever, but they don't. All too soon you'll get a call from your daughter asking for advice on signing up for a company 401K and you'll swear you hear the "Twilight Zone" theme music tinkling in the background.

I've learned that while life offers lots of opportunities, there are corresponding consequences as well. Speed limits are just that: limits, not suggestions. Regular oil changes are a great investment. So are mammograms and overdraft protection.

As I look back over the past 660 months, it's easy to focus on the things I dreamed of doing but never did. I suspect I feel this so strongly because my parents died suddenly, both in automobile accidents. My mother was killed when she was 49 and my father at 50.

When I cleaned out my parent's things, I found stacks of books and brochures about Alaska. I hadn't realized they were interested in going there. Maybe they told me and I just wasn't listening.

They never got to take their dream trip. They never even started any serious planning. After all, why be in a hurry? There was plenty of time, right?

Their early deaths have made me acutely aware that every day is a gift. Any time I've lived past 50 has been bonus time, years my parents never had. So for all the minor irritations of achy knees and hot flashes that rival the intensity of solar flares, I'm blessed. I have time to spend with my husband, my children and my friends. I have time to read and to write. I can pursue interests and develop new ones.

Maybe I'll get really lucky and live to see grandchildren. Maybe, just maybe, I'll go to Alaska.

Teressa Glazer is a Gainesville businesswoman. Her column appears every other Friday and on gainesvilletimes.com.

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