My Birthday Toast

I turned 90 on January 31 and my family outdid themselves with wonderful birthday celebrations over the last several weeks. My wife planned spectacular gatherings in London and New York, and my children and their spouses threw a party to remember at the Detroit Institute of Arts on February 22. I feel pretty good for 90, and seeing so many friends from all over the world was truly special.

Several people have asked if I could share my toast from the Detroit party, so here it is:

I want to thank my wonderful children for planning this terrific party . . . and the DIA for allowing us to be in this historic space.

As you know, Detroit is my home, and I love being in this museum . . . at my age, it feels great to be surrounded by things that are older than I am.

I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by family, friends and wonderful food at most of my first 89 birthday parties . . . except for a couple during World War II when I was serving in the Army Air Corps, and the year I took off to study the criminal justice system in Rochester, Minnesota.

And now I’m 90. Wow, that’s old.

If I were a side table, I’d be close to being an antique.

If I were a fine wine, I’d have a cracked cork and taste like vinegar.

If I were an automobile, I’d been running well past my warranty.

Fortunately, I exercise every day, have a few new parts (including two new glass corneas), and my mechanics – – otherwise known as doctors – – work hard to keep me on the road.

But I sleep wearing an oxygen mask . . .

When I wake up I have to swallow a tray full of pills . . .

I use a cane to steady myself . . .

My candy has no sugar in it . . .

And I constantly worry about the batteries in my hearing aids.

Sometimes I feel more like a science project than a human being.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many great things about getting old.

I just can’t remember them!

Old age is just another fact of life . . . And I cope with it.

For example, I’ve learned to be an accomplished sculptor . . . arranging my remaining strands of hair in just the right position to cover my scalp.

All things considered, reaching 90 is an extraordinary personal milestone. It must be, because people keep asking me for my secrets to living a long and healthy life.

And just in case I don’t make it to the century mark . . . here are three recommendations to consider:

First: get a good doctor. They have a big impact on the length and quality of your life. In the 90 years I’ve been alive, nothing has changed more dramatically than health care. Be sure you have a doctor who can take advantage of the breakthroughs.

Second: avoid aggravation as much as possible.

Make a list of all the things that aggravate you in your life . . . study it . . . then tear it up before your wife or children see it. And stay off the golf course. I’m convinced the frustrating game was invented to shorten lives and control population growth.

And third: stay curious and connected to people.

My wife, children and nine grandchildren keep me young . . .

Working with brilliant doctors and researchers at the University of Michigan keeps my brain alive . . .

Traveling around the world and learning about different cultures broadens my mind.

So that’s my advice: Get a good doctor . . . avoid aggravation . . . and stay curious and close to people.

To hell with the warranty.

So please join me in a toast to Detroit, to my family and to at least a few more birthdays!

 My children: Robert, Gayle, and William
My children: Robert, Gayle, and William

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