This week I turn sixty years old.
I’m sure, some of you out there, seventy years old and older, are probably thinking to yourselves: “Big deal. So this is a column? Let me know when you are eighty or ninety, now that’s a big deal.”
On the other hand, those of you out there in your twenties and thirties are probably saying to yourselves: “Sixty! He writes pretty good for an old guy. Impressive.”
Age, like beauty, is really in the eye of the beholder.
There is something ingrained in all of us to have this certain reaction to each new decade as it arrives loudly into our lives. There isn’t that much fanfare for the nine years in-between. No one says much about someone who just turned forty-nine, yet a mere 365 days later it will be the big heralded as the “Five-O” and it as though your life has changed forever.
If you are lucky enough to have friends who care about you and want to throw you surprise parties each decade from forty on to show how much you mean to them when you reach those milestone birthdays, you will feel loved, yet confused, when they jump from hiding places to yell “Happy Birthday” in a room decorated with black balloons, crepe paper and “Over The Hill” banners.
Sometimes our friends and family will put ads in newspapers to tell everyone “Lordy, Lordy, Look Who’s Forty” or “Looking Nifty at Fifty” with a picture of when you were way younger because, obviously, no one wants to know what you look like now. (I’m still waiting to see an ad one day that reads: “Isn’t it great, He’s Forty-Eight” but I’m not holding my breath.)
We have been conditioned in our thinking to look at the changing of one age to the next not to mean too much unless the first number in that new age is one more than the first number in the last.
When I turned 59, no one mentioned retirement or collecting social security, but now that another twelve months have passed both are valid subjects for conversation. (Though the thought of retirement will become a reality if and when I hit the lottery and considering I don’t play it that reality seems even further away.)
As you get to these new birthdays where your age goes into the next decade, you are more apt to be asked “What would you like for your birthday?’ and you are more apt to answer: “I just want health and happiness” because you now realize you can afford that cool 64-inch HD Smart TV anytime but you have learned through your years of experience that health and happiness can’t be bought with all the money in the world and to have them are the really cool gifts.
We fret a lot about our latest next decade birthday party, where, if we have people around us who love us, will include taking lots of pictures of us we will hate. We will look at them the day after the grand celebration (which, not coincidentally, ends an hour earlier at 50 than and it did at 40 and an hour earlier at 60 than it did at 50 until, I’d imagine. it comes down to a just a light lunch eventually) and we will think “Boy, do I look old” only to be surprised at your next new decade birthday party to see the pictures from ten years earlier and wish that you could go back and look like that again.
Getting older and all that comes with it, such as gastrointestinal changes, is a part of life and there is not much we can do about it. People say we should be born old and then get younger so when we have all of the wisdom we will have the energy to do something with it. I disagree. Your body won’t be as agile, won’t move as fast, as you age, but you are likely to make better decisions based on years of learning to keep you from needing to move too fast in the first place. (I think I may have written that last year as I approached my 59th birthday but that was when I was still a mere 58 years old and still sharp, so I’m not sure.)
So now as the crescendo of turning sixty approaches, I look forward to its arrival and then quick departure so I can learn and create what I can in the next nine quiet years until it’s time for the big “Seven-O” and all the noise starts again.
Still, at seventy, I probably won’t hear it as well anyway.
Brendan is the author of “The Flatlander Chronicles” and “Best Of A F.O.O.L. In New Hampshire” which are available at www.BrendanTSmith.com