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January 1, 2012

Adieu to 2011: The Year of AARP and Paul Anka

by Anne Paddock

2011 is going to remain in my memory for a long time because two significant things happened: I joined AARP and went to a Paul Anka concert – yes, the Peter Frampton groupie of 1975 admits to attending a Paul Anka concert. These events may seem quite normal to some people but for anyone that knows me, joining a club for “seniors” and attending a concert that isn’t considered “rock and roll” borders on breaking the faith of my rebel generation.

AARP – for those that don’t know – is the American Association for Retired Persons. When I hear those letters or words, I think of some retirement town in Florida where the streets are named after flowers and everyone rides three-wheeled bicycles with really loud horns. Or I think of The Seinfeld Show when Jerry would talk about his parents retirement community in Boca Del Vista, Florida where the daily excitement is found in playing shuffle board, bridge or discussing which early bird dinner special to take advantage of.

Fourteen years ago when my husband turned the big 5-0, he was inundated with mail from AARP. I mailed back the solicitation accepting the membership offer but when his red and white card arrived in the mail, he wasn’t happy and told me he didn’t want to be a member of AARP. My husband would tolerate AAA but not AARP; he was ok with being a card-carrying trip-tik holder (“there’s nothing like a map to see where you are going”) but he was not ok with belonging to any club that would classify him as a senior and certainly not a retired person. He did manage to laugh though when friends, upon hearing of the recent birth of our daughter, threatened to put a bumper sticker on his car that said “No, I’m not the grandfather.” Fathering a child at 50 was a badge of honor; joining AARP was not.

I became eligible to join AARP in 2011 and although there was a bit of hesitation in accepting the membership offer (am I really 50?), I paid my $16 and became one of the 40 million members. I don’t feel 50, my kind friends tell me I don’t look 50, and I certainly don’t act like I’m 50 but guess what?  I really am 50 and this is the first step in accepting that I am aging. Baby steps, I tell myself.

A few months ago, my husband asked me if I wanted to go see Paul Anka in concert.  I turned to him in disbelief and said “who?”  I didn’t really know who Paul Anka was…some song about someone “having my baby” popped into my head but even then I wasn’t so sure.My idea of a concert is to see the “Rolling Stones” or “Bruce Springsteen” – not a crooner that my parents probably listened to.  

In 2006, when the Rolling Stones were scheduled to kickoff a worldwide concert tour in Madrid, my husband and I decided our 10-year old daughter needed to see her first rock concert.  After all, the Stones weren’t getting any younger so we bought tickets. The concert was going to be on a Sunday night beginning at 10:00 pm (nothing starts early in Spain) so we knew our daughter wouldn’t make it to school the next day. I would write a note that says my daughter was “exhausted” – which would be some version of the truth.  No need to explain her parents took her to the see the Stones. As it turned out, the concert was canceled because Keith Richards had a concussion when he fell out of a coconut tree in Trinidad. We didn’t tell my daughter that he probably fell out of the tree because he wasn’t sober.

Flash forward five years and we’re getting invitations to go to concerts in air-conditioned performing arts centers. Friends (in their 60’s) wanted us to go to the Paul Anka concert with them so we decided to attend although I told my husband we would probably be the youngest attendees there. We arrived at the performing arts center, found our seats, and when the lights went down, a short, energetic and engaging guy with an amazing tan dressed in a black suit with a white shirt and dark tie comes running out into the audience singing “Diana,” – a song from the 50’s. Elderly (that’s 70 plus for me now but moving up) women were jumping out of their seats hugging and kissing Paul Anka and senior men were shaking his hand and slapping his back. I never imagined older people as groupies but this guy had these seniors on their feet. And, he didn’t stop.
Paul Anka is a gifted musician, songwriter, singer, producer, and performer and I didn’t know that until the night I saw him in concert when he played hit after hit – most of which I surprisingly recognized. His musical hits were more numerous than I thought and his collaboration with Michael Jackson resulted in the song “This Is It.” So, he isn’t just a crooner; Paul Anka is a multi-talented Emmy award winner. Only, I came to appreciate him at 50, thanks to my husband. My favorite song of the night: “Times of Your Life” – a beautiful ballad – which also ironically was from 1975; I was just too busy watching Peter Frampton at Madison Square Garden to notice Paul Anka back then.
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