The month of May has always been my favorite – primarily because of the weather, but also because I was born in May. This year I’ll reach the noteworthy milestone of turning 65, and so far, I don’t feel any different. In some cultures the count begins at conception, so I’m already there by those standards, but either way, by definition, I am now officially old.
When I was very young, this event seemed about as insurmountable as landing on the moon. The average male life expectancy was only 68, so reaching 65 would make me downright ancient. I might be confined to a wheelchair, suffer dementia, or surrender to the vapors. Thankfully, things have changed – people don’t get the vapors any more, and obviously we’ve been to the moon a few times.
In fact, according to what I’ve read, there have been more advancements during my lifetime than in any other period of history. When I was young, we didn’t even know what the word computer meant. There were no cigarettes with filters, automatic transmissions, non-stick cookware, radial tires, or watches you didn’t have to wind. We had 6-cent coke machines, penny candy, rotary telephones, push mowers, home milk delivery, and there was no such thing as The Grammys. We thought everyone from Great Britain sounded like Winston Churchill. We watched Gandhi in newsreels at 15-cent double features. There were reasonable Republicans, way too many petticoats, corner grocers, and everyone went to church.
So I figured if I made it to 65 there’d be a party, and then I’d probably be led away somewhere to die. Life would be over, or I’d opt to sit slowly rocking on someone else’s back porch comparing sunsets, smoking my pipe, and whittling until the end came. And now, none of that is going to happen. I can’t say I’m sorry either, since mentally, I feel about 40, and I’ve still got shit to do, dammit! Being this old is a whole lot less of a drag than I ever would have imagined.
But having officially reached old age also means I’ve got regular bellyaching to do, and much to the chagrin of others, I don’t give a hoot. The things that bother me the most seem to have finally achieved some sort of boiling point and I haven’t an ounce of patience for anything contrary. For instance, I don’t recommend you rub my nose in right-wing politics anymore – I’ve had enough of that selfish, short-sighted garbage, and I’m likely to go off on your tediously immature sense of morality and that self-righteous pomposity you pretend represents well considered thought. (See! I told you.) Likewise, I’m sick to death of thinly cloaked racism and homophobic fear mongering, and honestly have to fight the urge to punch people sometimes. That’s not good, of course, but the nonsense has been building up for so long that I’ve embraced the intransigence of old age as a surprising and comforting character flaw.
But life is a process with many bottom lines, and milestones aside, I still have goals that don’t involve a medical diagnosis. There are the obvious family hopes and desires – that goes without saying, but I also want to learn how to take great photographs, understand quantum physics, bake outstanding sourdough, visit London, and a thousand other things – so I’m just not ready to pack it all in yet. This is only my 65th May, and that doesn’t seem like a lot, does it?
Let’s face it. We’re all going to get old, and I’m pretty sure it’s downhill from here. So, if I had one piece of advice to offer, it would be to make the most of it while you can, but buy a rocking chair. Learn to whittle. It might come in handy any day now.
Voices From Forever by Randall Keller http://goo.gl/ZBBmj Available on Amazon
There Is No Silence by Randall Keller http://goo.gl/U6KY7 Available on Amazon.