Someone told me shortly before my birthday at the end of last month, “I can’t believe you are turning 80!” I told that person, “Neither can I.”

Turning 70 did not hit me as hard as turning 80. At 70, living another 10 years seems a likely possibility. At 80, thoughts about the next 10 years enter my mind with sobering question marks: Have these past 80 years been well-spent, with meaning, and how can I make the most of the time remaining?

“September Song,” one of my favorite songs from the past, has taken on new meaning for me. Although we in SoCal do not see much of the color changes in the fall, the part of the song tying together the approaching winter, signifying end of the year, and the changes in our lives has caused me to reflect on the autumn of my life:

“For it’s a long, long while, from May to December, but the days grow short, when you reach September.

“When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame, one hasn’t got time for the waiting game.

“For the days dwindle down, to a precious few … November, December …

“And these few precious days, I’ll spend with you, these golden days, I’ll spend with you.”

The final sentence, which speaks about how precious the final days are when spent with someone you love, brings to my mind, Marion, my dear wife of 56 years.

To be sure, we have had our differences. I sometimes, kiddingly call her “muzukashii” (meaning difficult — one of the few Japanese words I know). Nonetheless, whatever our future holds, I must tell you we have had a great life together, and she has made my life complete.

I started writing this column on a cruise ship that left from New Orleans.

The first stop was at Cozumel, an island off Mexico. Paddleboarding looked like fun, and something I had on my “bucket list.” My daughter Laurie and her family took to it in great fashion, and I was able to paddle while on my knees. But, because my family might tell on me, I have to admit I did this with Pedro, our paddleboard teacher, standing behind me on the board.

shigekuni-mexicoThe next day, we took a tour of some fascinating Mayan ruins in Belize, formerly known as British Honduras, and on the day after that, while Laurie and family took a catamaran for snorkeling off the Honduran island of Roatan, Marion and I toured the island by bus. On the final day, Marion and I, along with Laurie and her husband, took a fun but harrowing mini-jeep ride through the jungle and sand dunes along the coast of the Mexican town of Costa Maya.

While taking a tender boat at one of the ports we visited, I sat across from Sam, who it turns out was from Castro Valley in the San Francisco Bay Area. We chatted a bit about his birthplace of Maui, then it turned out he had come on the trip with some people for whom our attorney daughter Laurie had prepared a trust.

We later met a couple who had their trust done after Laurie had made a presentation at their church, the San Lorenzo Japanese Christian Church. It was a good feeling to talk with familiar people in an unlikely setting.

All of the above, along with being able to tour New Orleans, made this a truly memorable celebration of my 80th birthday.

Phil Shigekuni writes from San Fernando Valley and can be contacted at The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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