Earlier this summer, to my mild surprise, I turned 60. (When you have a Stupid Heart Attack at 53, every birthday afterwards is something of a surprise.) Every brand-new decade is significant of course, and a good place to pause and reflect. Fortunately, pausing is one of the things that’s easier to do when you’re 60. In fact, from a standing start, I can pause right into a semi-coma without hardly trying.
I reflected some and concluded there’s not gonna be too many more new decades to pause and reflect from, so maybe I’d best get started.
Yes, I know what people are saying: 60 is the new 50. (42 if you had surgery.) Tell that to my knees when I’m heading uphill. Which reminds me. Why the heck is nearly everything uphill nowadays? Bad enough when one’s body starts going bad on him. Don’t need the earth tilting on its axis to aggravate the situation.
Anyway, as can happen when dotage sneaks up on you, sometimes reflecting turns into remembering when...
...I rode my bike really fast. It only had one gear but that was all I needed. It was red and white and I’d turned the handlebars around to face forward, like a Texas Longhorn steer. Look out world - Frankie’s coming! I stood up on the pedals and pumped, rocking side to side, in order to climb the hills. When crested, I’d sit back down, take my hands off the handlebars and hold them high overhead, catching the breeze as bikeandi, conjoined, flew downhill.
...During summer holidays, I’d sneak out of the house at 3:00 a.m., hop on my bike, call on my buddy, and we’d ride upwards of 10 miles out of town to go fishing. Every time a car’s headlights appeared, we’d pull over and hide in the ditches or tall grass that lined the road, lest it be one of our parents discovering we’d left four hours earlier than we said we would.
...I could lope the mile and a half from school to home without breathing hard.
...I stood, trembly-legged, at Laurie Simmons’ back door and kissed her full on the lips after an evening of holding hands while ice skating.
...I sat on a porch on a summer night with friends, playing guitar, singing songs, sipping brew, passing joints and living forever.
And then...somehow I was a father of two boys and working six or seven days a week. Things got blurry and darned if I don’t wake up one day and find out I’m 60 and reflecting all over heck’s half-acre.
Anyway, it’s not too bad. There are pluses to being an old fart. You get discounts on stuff at some stores. It’s fun watching cashiers feign surprise when I confidentially inform them (in a loud stage whisper) that I’m a Senior.
Now, I no longer need an excuse to be cranky. Age suffices. I can glower and mutter with impunity. It’s darn liberating.
Mostly though, my reflections run toward feelings of gratitude. I’m extremely blessed that my boys have grown into such fine young men. I’ve been lucky enough to have loved and been loved by good women. (And love, and am loved by another!)
All things considered, my health is pretty good. I’m very grateful for that. I can still heave a 50 lb. bag of birdseed over my shoulder and carry it to the car. (If the car isn’t parked too darn far from the store’s door.)
I’m fortunate to have close-knit brothers and sisters, and friends who go back 40-50 years. It’s good to have people in your life you can be quiet with.
Near the front of my book that I hardly ever mention anymore even though it’s still in print and a darn good read, there’s a picture of me when I was about six years old. It’s black and white (duh!) and shows me proudly showing off a foot-long smallmouth bass. I found myself staring at that picture recently and trying to remember what it felt like to be that boy - to see the world through his eyes. I tried to recall that day in some form - a sight, sound or smell - and could not. I knew I was looking at me but I couldn’t re-experience what it felt like to be me.
But there’s no denying I was a happy guy that day.
And I’m a happy guy today.