In my youth, I used to cover a number of songs by the singer/songwriter Randy Stonehill. One of them was “Turning 30.” I sang it at a time when I wasn’t 30 yet, so the song really didn’t press upon me the weight of what it was trying to say. Now that I’m turning 60, well, I feel that weight and more.
Until you reach a certain age, numerical milestones mark our lives. I remember how important age 12 was to me. I wanted to go hunting with my Dad so badly I tried to convince him to take me with him when I was 10. He told me no, so I sulked a little and said, “I wish I was 12.” He responded, “Don’t wish your life away.” Easier said than done when you’re 10.
At 16, I started driving. I learned in a 1969 Volkswagen Beetle. It was a standard, and I almost went over a embankment while I was looking at the stick shift to make sure I was in the right gear.
At 18 they handed me a diploma at DuBois Area High School and told me to find a life. I thought I’d be a bricklayer, but after one day working with my Dad he told me I’d better go to college. I had had enough of school so I enlisted. Little did I know I would one day be a teacher.
Age 21 is a major milestone, and I spent part of mine in Ankara, Turkey. I returned home at 22 with all that I had amassed in my military career: a duffel bag, a guitar and some Gordon Lightfoot albums.
After 21, the milestones stop being numerical and are more focused on events. How old you are doesn’t really stand out with marriage, the birth of children, building a career and the like unless there’s something unusual about them.
I’ve heard about a mid-life crisis over the years, but no one really knows when those strike because no one really knows when their mid-life is. When I turned 50, my friends and family helped to send me to Burkina Faso for 10 days to teach English to grad students who wanted to study in the U.S., but I don’t think that would count as a mid-life crisis event.
Now that 60 is looming I can see why most people stop counting. I still feel like the same person I was at 30, but it’s obvious I don’t look like him. I have, shall we say, matured with time.
How does one celebrate 60? More importantly, how does one avoid celebrating 60? You can’t. Your family and friends will certainly want to celebrate it and not for the reason it means anything, but just for the opportunity to remind you that you are getting old.
I thought about a tattoo, but then I remembered that gravity is not my friend and will stretch something sexy into something hideous.
I also thought about getting my ear pierced, but then I realized my barber would have a more difficult time trimming my ear hairs. Besides, my earlobes are close to touching my shoulders now, and I don’t want to get them tangled in my shirt collar.
I am coming to realize 60 is like 13 in a number of ways. It’s a tweener age, meaning you’re just between numerical events. When you’re 13, you bide your time until you turn 16 so you can get your driver’s license. You then hope you can get a car. When you’re 60, you hope you can bide your time until you’re 65 so you can get your Medicare. You then hope they don’t take your license away.
There are differences, too. When you’re 13, you don’t think about fiber. When you’re 60, you have casual conversations with anyone who will listen about the benefits of fiber. When you’re 13, you don’t think that much about mortality. When you’re 60, it stares you in the face like a dog stares at bacon.
So here I am, on the cusp of 60 and wondering what a cusp is. I used to know, but it’s faded into the area of my brain that contains all my passwords and where I left my keys.
In a live performance many years after “Turning 30” was written, Stonehill once commented that he could see how it would progress over time. “I’m turning 60 – get off my lawn!”
Sounds about right.