When my husband Steve turned sixty, a milestone age which makes many of us who are younger than that squirm, he was no fun. The teasing and old age jokes did not bother him one bit. He shrugged off all references to creaky joints, ignored admonishments that he should stop climbing ladders “because you could fall and break a hip!” and refused the offer to have dinner at 5 o’clock. “I think it’s the law once you turn sixty,” I told him. No reaction. When our daughter started calling him “Gramps,” he found it amusing. “Well, I feel like a Gramps,” he reasoned. “Nothing wrong with that.”
He did not want a big birthday bash, despite my frequent pleadings. Instead, we rented a house on the Cape for the week, with family and friends wandering in and out, and he happily ate mussels and steamers with our kids and biked the fifty two miles to Provincetown and back. “Turning sixty is way better than the alternative,” he told anyone who would listen.
His real joy kicked in a couple of years later when he discovered the Senior Citizen discount. “Seniors over 62 get a discount on Amtrak tickets,” he bellowed from the other room. “This is fantastic!”
“So, now you’re calling yourself a senior citizen?” I was horrified.
“You’re just jealous you’re not as old as me. And did you know I can get discounts at Applebee’s and The Olive Garden?”
“Have fun with that.”
“It also looks like I can get a free coffee at Dunkin Donuts. I’ll find out which day,” the Senior Citizen coffee snob informed me. “I can learn to like Dunkin one day a week.”
To celebrate Steve’s next milestone birthday, sixty-five, we took a 12-day road trip through the states of Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. We mapped out a route to include stops along the “Blues Trail,” which featured juke joints now run down and shuttered that were alive and hopping decades ago. We stopped by the birthplaces of musicians like Buddy Guy and B.B. King, and lots of others I had never heard of but Steve was an expert on. Most of these spots were noted by markers on the side of southern, dusty back roads, and took some searching to find.
We also visited historical and musical museums that had admission fees. That’s when Senior Citizen Steve stepped in. We went to so many places in such a compressed period of time that the request for a discount was, to me, constant and loud.
“Do you have Senior discounts?” He asked the clerk at The Johnny Cash Museum.
“Yes, sir, 62 and older.
Steve beamed as he saved his two dollars.
It was the same at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, and Sun Studio and Graceland in Memphis and various sites throughout the Mississippi River Delta.
“One senior and one adult ticket, please.” I heard it over and over again as I sighed and rolled my eyes.
On our last day in Memphis, we walked to the south side of town to visit The Civil Rights Museum, set in The Lorraine Motel, site of Martin Luther King’s assassination. As we crossed the parking lot, we stopped to gaze up at the balcony where Dr. King was shot. It was a somber moment in what had otherwise been an exuberant road trip. It happened to be Easter weekend, and church choirs gathered to sing and commemorate. Steve reminded me that Dr. King was 39 years old when he was killed. Deep breaths.
As we went through the front doors of the museum and approached the ticket counter, Steve nudged me and pointed to the Admission Prices posted on the wall.
Senior Citizens (55 and older): $14.00
I gulped. “That’s me,” I whispered.
“Go ahead,” he smiled, a little too broadly.
I walked ahead of him up to the ticket counter.
“Two senior citizen tickets. And, please, please ask for my ID.”