*This is the last column I’ll write in my fifties. Come Saturday, I turn sixty. Surreal for me to read in print, not to mention saying it. But on October 24, it’s goin’ down. I’m sixty.
Usually, whenever I am on the cusp of a birthday, I begin telling people I’m that age months before the day arrives. You know, to get used to the idea. But I won’t do that to my fifties; the decade’s been too good to me to not give it every second of respect it deserves.
Fifty taught me that a number I once considered ancient—-fifty-—is anything but. To co-sign a cloying cliché, my fifties did feel like my thirties. They were filled with a sense of discovery, spirit, wonder and the ever hovering vainglorious notion that, yes, I was in my fifties, but I’ll be damned if I was old.
The decade taught me, once and for all, the answer to that long-lived rhetorical question friends my age ask at dinner parties or when we run into one another at the mall or in a supermarket parking lot and they re-introduce me to a kid I once held in my arms who is now in their late 20s with a mustache or a serious bosom–Where did it all go?
I’ll tell you where it went. To have shelter, we pay rent, a mortgage and/or property taxes. To eat, you pay for food.
The cost of being alive has its levy as well. That price is time. Want to live for a day? That’ll cost you 24 hours. A month? Shell over thirty days or so, my friend. Want to live for a year? Put your 365 days down.
Thing is, if you don’t like a product or it doesn’t work as advertised, you can be refunded your money.
Living, on the other hand, is about time that, once lived, is gone forever. That’s fine if it was spent learning something you needed to know.
But time squandered kicking the same can down the same road—-or a different road but the same can; or a different can, different road, but a waste, regardless—-that’s time you’ll never get back.
It is with this in mind that I stride into my sixties, feeling great both emotionally and physically, and more ambitious than ever. At sixty, I am a super grown man with a child’s heart. Still.
Truth be known, the problem with, shall we say, growing up (and up and up) is that at your core, you’re generally the same person you’ve always been. You just look different.
For example: to celebrate my birthday a couple years ago, a buddy invited me to take in an afternoon movie. After the film, while walking out of the theater, one of us started teasing the other about something I don’t even remember now (“senior moments”—-a hallmark of “older”). The verbal teasing gave way to some physical joshing about, the way sportive boys do in high school hallways.
At the height of this foolishness, in a cove before reaching the theater lobby, I turned to see a lone boy, ten years old or so, gaping at us, frozen in astonished bewilderment. His perplexed expression suggested he’d never seen two old men behaving like rowdy kids during playground recess. Without the support of canes, walkers or a nurse, no less. He had no way of knowing that if you have a passion for life—-and a penchant for acting a fool occasionally-—you never lose it, even if how you look physically indicates otherwise.
I am going to continue reaching for the stars. Stay curious and remain grateful. But I won’t be wasting time—-mine, nor, if I can help it, anyone else’s. Too expensive. Get ready sixties. Here I come.
Steven Ivory, veteran journalist, essayist and author, writes about popular culture for magazines, newspapers, radio, TV and the Internet. Respond to him via [email protected]