Friday, June 22, 2012

Then, I'm Sixty-Four

"Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm sixty-four?"
-Lennon & McCartney
And then, you really are sixty-four!

Way back when I turned sixty, I created a personal slogan, which went like this:

                  “Sixty. Twice as good as thirty.”

Even I almost believed it. Another version, for potential employers was, “ It’s like hiring two thirty-year olds!” They didn’t buy that one. Yet.

One of the reasons that you’re reading this is that editors looking for “content,” as they call essays, reporting, and stories these days, never ask my age. Sometimes they can tell by the content that I’m a Boomer, but, frankly, they don’t give a damn. They just need a good story, amusing content (hopefully, in my case) to lure readers towards the advertising, which barely pays their rent, if not mine. Yet.

Loyal readers of my blog know that I begin each day with a zen-like exercise, walking a small white dog on a red leash. Some monks like to sweep or rake, others sit on cushions. I like the illusion of walking the dog; illusion, since, from the dog’s point of view, she could just as easily be walking me, tethered to her red collar.

On days when the ideas are freely flowing and I cannot wait to get to pen and paper or keyboard, she tends to take a long walk, lingering over every blade of grass, every whiff of Chien No. 5 along the hill on which we now live. Naturally, she is speedy on days when I have no clue, 

Either way, a lesson of sorts learned, and there’s still time to sweep the stairs or rake whatever. Leaf-blowers are the agents of the devil.

Where were we? Sixty-four.

It’s an underappreciated age, of course, being situated between the magical sixty and the former traditional retirement age of sixty-five.

Former, since many now will not go gently into that particular night, out of preference, necessity or both; and, for all practical purposes, ninety-eight percent of us will now recognize retirement age as being anywhere from seventy-five to eighty, if you’re into that kind of thing at all.

I have heard certain citizens rail for years against “entitlements,” then be first in line on the day they become eligible for senior citizen train fares, shoving their proof between the bars at the ticket office like one who has just made bail. Who among those brave protectors of individualism chooses to deny themselves Social Security or Medicare benefits, despite proclaiming every which way that both systems are heinous crimes against fiscal and actuarial sanity? Few. Well, okay, none. But this is not for me to decide. Yet.

At sixty-four, one avoids any trauma associated with milestone birthdays. Its cousins were good ages as well: four, sixteen, thrity-two. All of those were easier than five, eighteen, and thirty, since there was far less of a sense of expectation. 

In my day, we began school, kindergarten (PS 101), at five. At eighteen, we a) registered for the draft and then b) went out and had a legal beer, although it was far from our first. At thirty, we considered ourselves to be hopelessly old and began to accept the fact that we were getting remarkably more like our parents every day; and, what was even stranger, as we did this our parents began to look so much better than we had thought! I do not think my own kids have suffered that fate. Yet.

I recently came across a Middle-Eastern saying, “First yourself, then the universe.”

I’m putting that one on my wall. Selfish, you say? Not in the sense in which I received the message: take care of your own business, before you manage everyone else’s. I’d say tend your own garden, but that’s a sore subject around home, ever since I took a pitchfork to the common sprinkler system, while planting, which I do once every decade to remind myself why I prefer digging with a pen.

Sir Paul McCartney himself was on the telly the other night singing for my birthday; the Queen happened to be there too. He didn’t sing When I’m Sixty-Four, but, Paul being Paul, he had some excellent lyrical advice for anyone at any age.

“Let it be.”


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