How Terribly Strange to Be Seventy

Posted: March 22, 2008 in Art, Morgantown, Ron Sheppard, Sarah Einstein, West Virginia
Tags: , , , ,

A portrait of me, painted by Ron Sheppard in 1992Ron will be seventy a week from tomorrow.  Seventy.  There isn’t much left to him but stories and stubborness.  He’s gone so thin it’s hard to remember what he looked like back before age and all those accidents tore him up.  He can barely walk, even with a cane.  Remember how he used to move; so fluid, so quick?  How surprising it was that he had speed even though he was never going anywhere?  Now it takes fifteen minutes to get to the bathroom and back on a good day.

I should be planning a birthday party for him, but I’m not.  We can’t have him and his at the house while Lucy is here… he has no truck with rules and such, and the woman he lives with has a nineteen year old son who would expect to be allowed to drink beer with everyone else.  Even if Lucy weren’t here, I don’t think I’d be able to swallow my middle-aged woman’s common sense long enough to allow that. 

I’ve had a song in my head all week, something by Simon and Garfunkle.

Can you imagine us
Years from today,
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange
To be seventy.

And now, one of us is. He can’t hear, but won’t get hearing aids, says he likes it better that way. His hands are palsied, but all he does is talk about how he wants to get the studio back up and running. Soon as there is space, he’s moving into the old folks high rise on Willey Street. Ron. Old. Finally, too old to find a woman to take him in and pay all the bills.

How terribly strange to be seventy…

  1. Kat Nove says:


    If I think about being seventy my brain will explode. At fifty-two, I attempted to work out the logistics of a motorcycle for the first time in thirty-two years this past weekend. The results are a gouged and badly bruised shin, and a butt so sore I can barely walk. You are completely right – it must be terribly strange to be seventy.

  2. sarahemc2 says:


    Oh my! Although it SO fits my image of you, to imagine you streaking down the highway on a chopped hog, decked out in leathers and going a little faster than you should!

  3. Nadine says:

    Another gem. Parasites get old too. Since I’m celebrating 72 in a few weeks, I’ll read this a few times. Reminds me of my brother who is nearly 80.

  4. Glenn Glennon says:

    Seventy is only old if you let it be old. I do three miles on the treadmill in 50 minutes and then other exercises on the machines at Bally’s. There are at least four men in their eithties working out at the same time I do. I’m still working on three days per week. I think that your mind and body stay in good shape if you continue to give them workouts. You can age at any age, if you’ll excuse the pun. I have complieted 2^6 plus neuvo anos–Glenn

  5. Bobkee says:

    Hey sarah, Big Bike Hoggette, sounds like you were trying to DO seventy. Get better, will ya?

    Yours truly, from an Old Geezer who is a hell of a lot closer to being seventy than you are kiddo 🙂

  6. Brian Lancaster says:

    Hi Sarah – such a poignant piece, beautifully written. My partner’s parents have just turned seventy and the once party-loving, free-spirited couple have slowed down so much, it’s heartbreaking. It’s only when my partner reminds me that we have been together over 15 years and that when I first met them, they were in their 50s, that things start to click. On the bright side, they still love a tipple every now and again and laugh every day.

  7. sarahemc2 says:

    Those who’ve pointed out that 70 really isn’t that old — you’re right, unless of course, it is. Ron lived a little harder than most, and in his mid-sixties, developed the odd habit of getting hit by cars. Neither of these things helped keep him young and spry. I’m glad that so many other folk, though, are doing well and get a little pissed off at the suggestion that 70 is “old.” I’m hoping to feel the same way, myself, when I get there!

  8. John says:


    What a great piece! You have such a wonderful voice that comes through in your writing, and you have a great command over the tone of the piece. There’s a nice balance between the sweet and the bittersweet in this.

    I’ve just had some time to explore your blog a little more. Keep up the good work.


  9. sarahemc2 says:

    Thank you, Elizabeth! I’m learning a lot from seeing how different people age, and finally getting smart enough to work towards health instead of simply expecting it. It does seem to make all the difference.

  10. Deb McC says:

    Now 71 and headed back to Morgantown…the snail returns. Ah, but the stories he can tell… Yet, just listen once and return to your nest; your continued attention will surely earn you a repeat performance…

  11. Sweet blog. I never know what I am going to come across next. I think you should do more posting as you have some pretty intelligent stuff to say.

    I’ll be watching you . 🙂

  12. Debby says:

    And, now he has returned…even slower than when you last saw him. Oh my, 71.

  13. jake says:

    i love Ron very much. i found out about his passing last night when i was trying to make travel plans to visit him from new york. i’ve seen many of his landscapes and seascapes but i had never seen the portrait he did of you. i think its very beautiful and i recognize his style.
    do you have any photographs of him? if so i would be very grateful if you could send me any –

    • sarahemc2 says:

      I’m sorry, I just noticed this because, really, I’d kind of let the blog go fallow. If you’ll send me an email, I’ll ask Jen to scan some photos. I don’t have any. I don’t think we owned a camera the year we lived together, though now that everyone has one in their phone that’s hard to imagine. He’s much missed.

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