Saturday, February 22, 2014
The art of not turning 60.
So there will be no blogs from me about turning sixty. Nothing about the mental anguish, dramatic build up, or trauma in pulling myself out of bed that fatal morning. Nothing about a world which has slowly lost its lustre and colour. I won't even introduce quotes on the subject, such as the one by Albert Einstein:
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
They say that 60 is the new 40, so I could write about forty instead. Many of you claimed that 40 was the beginning of the best years of your life at the time. How did that work out for you? No, if I were to go back, it would have to be back to the great divide: thirty. 30 was the first real ball breaker. We, the post-war ME generation, grew up believing that anybody over the age of thirty was over the hill. They ceased to be relevant to our own existence. So upon reaching thirty, I experienced a trauma that was totally new to me. I was getting old.
Yes, I know, we would all kill to be 30 again. Even 40 doesn't look that bad once you reach 60.
Not that the feeling of alienation is all that new. For a long time, I appeared to be the youngest in the group - whether it were professional, social, or otherwise. And then at some time in the past, people around me suddenly appeared younger than me. And I imagine that they looked at me as I had once looked at older people at that age. Which couldn't help me but feel... wait for it ... drum roll ... irrelevant.
When Adva and I got married, her relatives - even at the wedding reception - asked about when we planned to have baby. I didn't know that it was a package deal at the time. I mean... I knew that we would have a child at some time, but it still seemed far off.
There were echoes of this when I turned 60.
"Aren't you looking forward to retirement?" they asked.
"Just shoot me," I wanted to answer, but I attempted one of my now infamous strained smiles.
Can't be avoided, I guess.
A good friend of mine decided on a big birthday bash with friends to celebrate her 60th. While drinking a glass of wine with her to quietly celebrate my own passing, I told her:
"I'm not like you. I don't see what there is to celebrate in turning sixty. I just want it to quietly come and go so that I can ignore it as much as possible."
She was strangely quiet when I said this, which I later realized was because she knew what was coming.
My wife and children threw me a surprise birthday party. They invited me for a small party gathering at a Irish pub. When I got there, I received a boisterous welcome from extended family and good friends. Caught me by surprise, as I stood there rooted to the spot, not knowing how to react at being suddenly thrown into the centre of attention. But once it was affirmed that I still had a pulse, it was quite nice. They had come, at least at this time, not to bury me, but to praise me. My daughter Nicole, the mastermind behind such operations, had put together a touching presentation, and now - instead of mourning years that had passed - I could enjoy in their celebration. And suddenly it all seemed that much easier. Nicole had even included a quote of mine from a previous blog post, at the top of the special menus they had created:
"In many ways my life has turned upside down, but friends and family stay with me, and keep me from fading away."
My grandson, almost eight months old, was there also. Watching him take in everything with glee and great interest allowed me to once again marvel at things forgotten, and I realized that there were still mysteries to be explored. And a short time later my daughter told me that she had become engaged. And although one of my initial reactions was to get out an old copy of Father of the Bride with Spencer Tracy, mourning the loss of a daughter to a man much younger than myself, all in all I was truly happy for them. Another beginning, which would hopefully lead to big and beautiful things.
And it wasn't so bad then - turning 60. But that isn't what this blog is about.