Sunday, June 26, 2016

Turning 70: 3 score and 10: The Golden Years can Kiss my Ass

Age is strictly a case of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.          
Jack Benny

When you are on a long anticipated trip and its about two thirds over, its a special moment when you can look both forward and backward in time knowing you will have enough occasion to shape the remaining part of the trip whist rehashing the experiences of the first two parts.  And that’s how turning 70 feels to me, wishing dearly that I will remain to see the light of day and that my age will find its way to approach triple digits.

Pleas'd to look forward, pleas'd to look behind, and count each birthday with a grateful mind.
Alexander Pope

I am long on ideas, but short on time. I expect to live to be only about a hundred.
Thomas Alva Edison

This is of course was not the historical perspective as preached by the Bible or by Mark Twain on his famous 70th birthday speech.  (and of course he had no idea that his life would last only 4 ½ years longer).  Taking those thoughts literally, I am to be freed from any restraint in speech and behavior on the day on, and for those that follow my 70th birthday landmark.

Psalm 90:10 King James Version
The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
And from Mark Twain; remarking on his 70th birthday. Threescore years and ten!  It is the Scriptural statute of limitations. After that, you owe no active duties; for you the strenuous life is over. You are a time-expired man, to use Kipling’s military phrase: You have served your term, well or less well, and you are mustered out. You are become an honorary member of the republic, you are emancipated, compulsions are not for you, not any bugle-call but “lights out.” You pay the time-worn duty bills if you choose, or decline if you prefer-and without prejudice-for they are not legally collectable.

Alas few humans will admit that turning 70 is a welcome landmark. Surely most of us would rather wallow eternally in the excesses of the 20’s and 30’s where anything in life is possible and even significant errors in judgment can be rectified, injuries healed, all without permanent residua or stigma.  And maybe others would feel more settled at 40 or 50 with a little grey, and the knowledge that they have proven themselves worthy, reached their goals, created artwork or empires or mechanical gismos or simply had a fulfilling relationship resulting in a genetic legacy.

But empirically, turning 70 finds one breaking down mentally and physically.  Turning 70 means scary times when the slightest ailment can turn into cancer, the slighted injury can go unhealed, and the slighted chore can be a nightmare to complete. So why do I exclaim that I have never been as happy in my life as I am NOW, at 69, only a few months from turning 70.

Its that most mornings I wake up looking forward to the day. My heart is light, and the day lies ahead with me placed squarely in the drivers seat.  Never before have I had such freedom of movement and thought. There was always something I HAD to do. The day disappeared, lost in the focus and dedication that was needed in fulfilling task after task.  Very seldom did I have the freedom of doing anything just for me.  And when it came time for me to have my time, it felt rushed, fleeting and incomplete.  My life was structured, busy, multidimensional, satisfying, important and all consuming.  But my life passed me like a gust of wind, directed and unstoppable, overpowering, fleeting and invisible.

Life is better now. I treasure most days unless something goes wrong and I have to redirect my plans.  Most days I have so much time to think and plan and waste and nap and eat and even enough time to get my work done.  Today is a good day.  Tomorrow will be an adventure.

I never have valued celebrating any event or occasion.   I never really had an official retirement party mostly because I pressed my work friends to not plan one. I was really not good a remembering or celebrating birthdays or wanting to take the effort to properly prepare for and celebrate Christmas or Easter or even the 4th of July.  If it weren’t for my wife, every day in my married life would have been the same!

Things have changed and I now want to celebrate my 70th birthday in November.  I will have several events to mark this day – one in Honolulu and one in New Jersey.  The one on the East Coast is intended as a proxy for getting my entire family together in one room - at a Lebanese restaurant with my sisters and their families and even a belly dancer.  I fear my sister’s age and want to get together while we are still here on earth to enjoy each other’s company. 

The event in Honolulu has another purpose.  It is to truly celebrate the already spent six decades of my life, including the fortunes and misfortunes, my health and position, and the ever-present opportunities to enjoy new chapters in my life which I hope is far from over.  It is also to send a message to my friends that there is life after work and that everyone should consider some form of retirement before it’s too late to do so.  Of course, I will have to endure a litany of roasting and outlandish comments that will be the highlight of the evening’s entertainment.  And for that part, I look forward to hearing from my friends what embarrassing memories they have dredged up from the deep recesses of their minds.

No one is so old as to think he cannot live one more year.
Marcus T. Cicero

Dr. Seuss on the golden age 
The golden years have come at last,
Why don't I feel this is a blast?

I cannot see, I cannot pee.
I cannot chew. What can I do?

My memory shrinks. My hearing stinks.
No sense of smell..I look like hell.

My body's drooping, got trouble pooping.
And people ask, "Why am I stooping?"

The golden years have come at last.
The golden years can kiss my ass.

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