Today is my 69th birthday

The above photos are of my eldest uncle, Douglas Armstrong. The first was taken in 1980, here in Merida, the second in Nanaimo, BC in 2010. Uncle Doug was my mother’s brother, and he used to say, “We age in decades.” When I asked for some clarification of that statement, he explained what he believed. “The health and attitude we have when we finish a decade of life is a barometer of how the next one will proceed. Then when we are a year or two away from the next milestone, we enter in a period of change, and we decide how the next 10 year allotment will go.” “You mean each of us decides,” I asked. “Definitely,” he replied.

He was 69 when he began spending his winters in Yucatan. He would rent a house, right on the beach, and this became his pattern for the next 20 years. He’d arrive from Canada right after Christmas and return just before Easter. Our Yucatan family, called him, “Tio Doug”. Unlike a lot of men, he was still tall and handsome in his seventh decade, and all the “ladies of Progreso” flirted with him. He played catch with the children and fed the stray dogs. His good humor and kind nature attracted people to him, just as a sunny day calls for a picnic

His first visit to Yucatan was the year my son, Carlos was born. As a gift he brought us an English pram. “A young fellow should ride in proper style,” he insisted. His final visit was for Maggie’s Quince Años party. It is customary at such celebrations for all of the men in attendance to waltz with the birthday girl. When it was Tio Doug’s turn, he told Maggie how she reminded him so much of his sister, the grandmother for whom she is named. “You’re a spritely lass, just as she was,” he said. And until he had finished the reminiscence about my mother as a girl, he would not let anyone else take their turn on the dancefloor. When he deemed it time to do so, he bowed in his formal, courtly, old-world way, and everyone spontaneously clapped and cheered.  He was 89 at the time. That night he took my hand and confided his doubt about reaching 100. “But I might get close,” he added.

We visited him in Canada at the retirement home where lived his last five years, and he still had the ladies vying for his attention. When I told him he’d not lost his charm, he laughed and told me, “No, no, they don’t come because they think I’m handsome.” He opened a cupboard and showed me an empty box of Peak-Frean English biscuits. “They come for the cookies,” he said, and then winked mischievously.  “And you know that’s the best thing a man of my age has to offer!” Tio Doug died peacefully at 97.

So, now I am the age he was when he came to Merida for his first visit. WOW! How did all those years go by so quickly? I am facing the same choice he faced when he was my present age. He decided to make his last years as worthwhile as possible. And I am going to do likewise. With the pandemic, changes in fortune, and my husband’s recent illness – these have not been the best years of my life – but that is about to change!

Like my darling uncle, I have chosen the last year of my 60s, to prepare myself for the next decade/s. I have no time to waste or bemoan the whims of fate. These are going to be the best years of my life – no matter what may come.   


Published by Changes in our Lives

I am originally from Canada but have lived in Mexico since 1976. My husband is from Merida, Yucatan and we raised our family here. We both worked for many years at Tecnologia Turistica Total (TTT), the tourism, language and multimedia college we founded for local and international students. Now retired, we enjoy spending time with family and friends, My other interests include reading, painting, cooking and travel.

14 thoughts on “Today is my 69th birthday

  1. Happy birthday, Joanna. Blessings all around! All the best for the still many years to come! Abraço.


  2. Happy (fill in blank) _____day🎂🎉👏🏻. What a beautiful way to begin a decade – or a day.


  3. Happy Birthday Joanna ?? All the best for your future and for Jorge’s continuing good health. Susan Carson ??

    Sent from my T-Mobile 5G Device Get Outlook for Android ________________________________


  4. Happy Birthday, Joanna! I have such vivid memories of your Uncle Doug. First met him at his beach house, Carlitos was still in his playpen. He regaled us with a story about yelling “Lagarto, lagarto” at some local adolescentes who were causing a disturbance (of course he meant, “largate”), and his astonishment when they didn’t leave, but started looking around for the alligator😂. I also remember him being the life of the party at Maggie’s Quince años. He was truly an inspiration on how to live one’s life well and fully. May you truly follow in his footsteps for many decades to come.


  5. Happy Birthday dear friend…I love the optimism of your post and how much there remains to anticipate; we look for ‘Joy and Purpose’ every day. Remembering you on your special day….love Jan and Tony

    Sent from Mail for Windows


  6. Happy, Happy Birthday to you, Wonderful Joanna. What a gift you are. I know you will make the next decade a GREAT one! Because you burn so brightly, you will light up all of our lives, us fortunate enough to be touched by you, your books, your life-changing ideas. Thank you for continuing to inspire us to make each decade, and each day in it, magical. I am so grateful for you, as are so many others, more than you can ever imagine.


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