I just had another birthday. It's none of your business which one, but you should guess that anyone who started a government career in the Governor Norman Brunsdale administration is older than lignite coal. In fact, you have to be old even to know that Norman Brunsdale had an administration.
Bernard Baruch, adviser to presidents, defined "old" as being someone 15 years older than he was. This is a dangerous observation because it creates the illusion that we can keep doing what we're doing regardless of age. Nevertheless, Bernie did okay. He lived to 94, meaning that his "old" people were 109.
If you want to live a longer life, you must admit to yourself that you are old. That will make you both careful and cautious. I have an 89-year-old brother who doesn't know he's old. At 84, he fell off the roof while shingling. A year later, he lost three fingers to a table saw. He still lives on the edge but he's paying the price.
The best advice is to live tentatively. Governor John Davis knew this. (He came after Brunsdale.) When Phil Harmeson, director of the UND Bureau of Governmental Affairs, invited the former governor to a reunion of governors and urged him to buy a plane ticket early to get a good price, John said: "Look, I don't even buy green bananas anymore."
Here's another example of tentativeness. A few weeks after the dust settled from a successful Conway reunion, I asked another aging brother when we should have the next one. He said: "How about next week?"
It is important to detect aging before the undertaker does. One sign is the widening gap between the body and the brain. In fact, they lose contact with each other. The brain wants to enroll us in the Minneapolis marathon, when our legs can't make it around the block. Instead of believing our legs, we enroll and drop dead after three blocks. Cemeteries are full of surprised seniors.
One sure sign that we are old is declining memory. No matter how hard we try, we can't remember "what's his name" who has lived next door for 12 years. To hide our memory problem, we sometimes strain to remember things we never knew in the first place.
Another sign of aging is that all of our foresight has become hindsight. But then foresight isn't all that necessary anymore as long as Medicare will remain solvent for another couple of years. Finally, we acknowledge that the History channel isn't. We can remember when most of it happened.
And we aren't going to be around to pay off the national debt so there's no need to become unbalanced just because the federal budget is. Unfortunately, the country eventually will become like the housing market - the mortgage will be more than we're worth and China will quit lending us money.
But it is important to keep hope alive. George Burns once said that our goal should be to live past 100 because very few people die over 100. Unfortunately, George became one of them. He died at 100 plus three months.
So be careful. It could give you another week or two.
Lloyd Omdahl served as North Dakota's 34th Lieutenant of the state from 1987 to 1992. Previously he was a professor of political science at the University of North Dakota. He continues to write columns for newspapers across the state of North Dakota.