Rich Galen

Allow me a day of what, bragging? Whining? Maybe both.

Today I turn 65.

When I was a kid I don't think I knew anyone who was 65. I thought people who were 35 were old. When I was a kid 35 was the new 65.

I am not one of those people who rue birthdays that are divisible by five. Thirty, bothered me because it was the passage between being young and being a grownup, led by the fact that The Lad was born. None of the next six have given me pause.

This one didn't either, until last Thursday.

I pray I am not at the upper end of the last generation whose members could do anything they set their minds to or, as in my case, whatever fortune threw at my feet. I don't think so. I choose to believe that the best of America's good old days are still ahead.

I think I have recounted my dismal high school and college academic career. I went to Marietta College, Marietta, Ohio 45750 because it was the only place that accepted me - and at that I had been on the waiting list. Their hesitancy was well-founded as I was tossed out a year-and-a-half later for the sin of scoring three "Fs" a "B" and a "C" as my grades after my first semester as a sophomore.

The "B" was in English Comp which was a required course. I learned I could wake up on the day an assignment was due and, hung over or not, write an essay that generally received a B-ish grade. The realization that I had a knack for writing has stood me in good stead.

Getting thrown out of college led me to join the New Jersey, then Ohio, Army National Guard. That experience stood me in good stead 35 years later when I landed in Baghdad and got to spend the better part of six months around some of the best people on the planet: American Service Members.

I was the news director for radio station WMOA in Marietta; an experience which has stood me in good stead as a press secretary for all those years: I can smell a good story, and I know what I would have asked as a reporter, and so I have been able to help prepare my boss for whatever was coming at us.

First time I ran for city council I lost the primary by two votes. The next time my new (and still my) wife ran the campaign and I won with the highest vote total of anyone running in the 26 Marietta City precincts. That has stood me in good stead dealing with candidates and elected officials. When they said I didn't understand what it was like to have people you didn't know say bad things about you; I told them that, in fact, I did.

At the radio station I wrote a daily commentary. Those scripts have long-since disappeared, but having to write a 300 word essay in between getting finished with the seven-thirty newscast and calling the police station for the previous night's traffic accident report five mornings a week has stood me in good stead to be able to write these 750-word essays three days a week since 1998.

When I was 39 I was diagnosed with cardiac artery disease. Over the next 13 years medical science kept me going until I underwent cardiac bypass surgery at 52. The docs wanted to wait until I was in my 50s so they would only have to do the grafts once. It's been 13 years and the arteries continue to do their job. That experience has stood me in good stead because I realized I had been given a second chance and I've tried to make the most of it.

The world has changed dramatically in my lifetime. In spite of Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iraq again - not to mention the dozens of what are called "minor" military adventures - for most of my life, the term "Post-war" referred only to the period following World War II.

As someone smarter than I once pointed out, the American economy changed forever, not when women entered the workforce as a matter of personal choice; but when a majority of American men began showering before they went to work at the office; not after they came home from work in the factory.

When I was 10, Mickey Mantle won the Triple Crown (leading the American League in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in) and the Major League Baseball season was only 154 games (not the 162 they play today) because there were only sixteen teams not the 30 we have today.

I remember looking up from the soccer field at New Hyde Park Memorial Junior-Senior High School on Long Island and seeing my first passenger jet pass overhead, having taken off from nearby Idlewild Airport - now JFK.

In 1967 a group named the "Lovin' Spoonful" had a hit song "My Darling be Home Soon." A line read: "And now; a quarter of my life has almost passed …"

Now, at 65, I might have a quarter of my life left, but I don't fret about that. Turning 65 hasn't been all that big a deal.

Until last Thursday.

When I had to apply for Medicare.


Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at Mullings.com.

Due to the overwhelming enthusiasm of our readers it has become necessary to transfer our commenting system to a more scalable system in order handle the content.