I turn 60 in less than a week. As you might expect, I’ve been giving it a lot of thought. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
- It happens fast – My dad told me this many years ago and he was righ It’s like your car’s gas tank; the first half takes forever to go down and you think you’re getting great mileage. Then the gauge slips below the midpoint and next thing you know you’re calling AAA. Or as my friend Bob says, “Until 30, things were moving in a logical, orderly manner. Then someone hit fast forward and here we are.”
- There’s no way to spin it – It’s official: I’m too old to die young. Unless science invents a cure for mortality (which my insurance probably won’t cover), my life is probably three-quarters over, give or take. That being said, I’m in better shape than my father at the same age. (Sadly, my mother died at 54 of a brain aneurysm.) At the risk of putting the kibosh on it (that sound you hear is me knocking on wood), I’ve managed to avoid serious illness, major surgeries and accidental brushes with death (with a few notable exceptions). I try to eat right, get seven hours’ sleep a night, wear my seat belt, take my vitamins, avoid second-hand smoke and get just enough exercise to keep from falling apar And I was a year too young for the Vietnam draft. (Like the first poor guy sniped on the landing craft in “Saving Private Ryan” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCEFOx5Hc2Y, I would have never made it off the tarmac.) So I understand the importance of luck and recognize I’ve had my fair share.
- Slippage – Still, the signs are all around me. My knees hur So do my feet. I need reading glasses. And I don’t do anything as fast as I used to. In the olden days, I was Google before Google. (Or at least Cliff Clavin.) My family and friends would call me at all hours of the day and night to answer a trivia question, often involving some sort of wager. Like who starred in “IT! The Terror from Beyond Space” (Marshall Thompson); who sang backup on “Yellow Submarine” (Donovan); and who did the voiceover for Reagan’s “Morning in America” campaign” (Hal Riney). Today, it can take me an hour or a week to access the data stored somewhere deep in my wrinkly brain (I refuse to take the easy way out and look it up unless I’m on deadline.) Here’s just a small sampling of random items I’ve struggled with in recent years: KD Lang, Marisa Tomei, Jerry Orbach, Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods, Carl Weathers, John Stockton, Hugh Jackman, half the people at any business mixer, and anything my wife asks me to pick up at the store.
- It’s a kick in the pants – Death is no longer an abstract concept but a constant companion. It’s the first thing I think of when my feet hit the floor in the morning (“Hey, I’m still here. Maybe I should go to work.”) Which means it’s time to finish my novel, pick up the guitar again and maybe even visit some of those exotic locales that used to give me a longing ache in the gut whenever I’d see a magazine photo. Years ago, I got badgered into attending a weekend team-building retreat up in some really cold mountains (advice: don’t go) which was largely a waste of time except for one piece of wisdom that has stuck with me ever since: “Every day, people drop dead doing just what you’re doing right now.” (Solution? Stop what I ‘m doing right now.) Or as Bonnie Raitt sings, “Life gets mighty precious when there’s less of it to waste.”
- I’ve learned me some stuff – I’ve met young people wise beyond their years and old folks who haven’t learned one blessed thing. I’m somewhere in the middle. Here are a few ideas I’ve managed to pick up along the way: Niceness counts. Karma works (slowly but it works). Play hard (but never forget it’s a game.) Get up one more time than you get knocked down. Learn to live with doub (If someone tells you they have all the answers, head for the hills.) Change happens from the bottom up. Happiness is fleeting and over- rated. (There’s a reason the founding fathers referred to it as the pursuit of happiness.) Nothing is more important than family and friends. Leave the world a little better than you found it.
For a more complete (and self-indulgent) list, see my previous blog on the subject:
Happy New Year!