Friday, April 24, 2009


Some would have you believe that Tis the winter of our discontent… whether from Shakespeare’s sarcastic Richard III or Steinbeck’s Ethan Allen Hawley who would sell his soul to the devil to have his way. There is no winter here today, only Spring and flowers, positive attitudes and the prospect of lives renewed.

Turning 60 might stop some folks dead in their tracks and that was going to be the subject of this post, even while I contemplate my own mortality – being closer to the end than the beginning.

I was going to wax philosophic and name this post On Turning Sixty though after a cursory search on the Internet, I found post after post, article after article, countless poems and even books with the same title. No Joe Biden here (hence an alter title) though I wasn’t surprised when you realize that most folks do age, hit that august mark in the 21st century and then find some way to either glorify or denigrate that event. In my case we’re talking about a young Lady who’s really too young to be sixty as she has redefined the milestone.

After this weekend she will have achieved that maturity and moved on to some other aspect of her life while the collective rest of us muddle on the twilight side of sexagenarianism. While many of us have a tough time wrapping our arms around just the concept of sixty, the truth is that sixty, at least chronologically, and in the context of the big picture, is not all that different from fifty-five or even fifty. It’s that whole lame frame of mind thing and, well, you’ve heard all the coddling, assuring and patronizing crap mostly from the AARP about sliding into home plate and then seeing and following the light! Well, the reality is that sixty is, indeed, the new fifty.

I certainly believe that we don’t have to acquiesce and accept our mortality with nothing more than a whimper. We can as author Judith Viorst invites us to consider and we paraphrase, "drink wine, make love, laugh hard, care hard, and learn a new trick or two as part of our job description." While Viorst was talking about seventy there is no reason to think this great and sage advice isn’t applicable to any age beyond fifty. Indeed, that message has been taken to heart by the pig in the python Boomers who still appear to be reinventing the culture and then once having attained a longevity never before experienced, try and figure out how they are going to pay for those years…. Ah, the new paradigm in a new economy.

We who are in the War Baby and Boomer Generations (cohorts) redefined our culture, are now an estimated 80 million+ demographic (and decreasing) and represent more than 30% of the US population. On a personal note I certainly wonder what happened to the US War Baby Generation that has apparently morphed to the Silent Generation though in some circles a 1943 birth day willl earn you a Boomer appellation (shame on you Wikipedia). I will continue to recognize the Boomers as those fortunates born between 1946 and 1964, while War Babies were, well, Eureka, born from 1941 to 1945.

As I mentioned this seniority has prompted many literary offerings, including many poems, many of which are downright depressing. Among all of those I found fellow sexagenarian and poet Don Thompson and his version of Turning Sixty. No doubt his clarity springs from his life experiences and Masters earned at the University of British Columbia. Don speaks for me…

It’s not a change for the worse, unexpected, not an abrupt
grinding downshift for a corner you’re going too fast to make.
It’s not like that, not at all like locking up the brakes
to skid sideways to a stop with an inch or so to spare,
the engine still idling, so quiet you can hear the dust settle,
idling as if nothing had gone wrong.

No, aging is more like a slow segue, a glissando rather than incremental clicks;
or a few degrees on your thermometer that don’t amount to much quantitatively,
yet separate warm and familiar, comfortable, from distinct chill.
Those few degrees add up to the end of a long season.

Maybe a storm would make it all easier: blistering rain
with winds that thin your hair and blow the color out of what’s left,
Mach One winds that make your jowls sag.
A man could stand up to that or to a wreck, a cardiac crack-up.
But it’s not like that. Instead, an almost imperceptible desiccation sets in,
passions thickening like old paint in cans you can barely pry open.

So turning sixty isn’t disaster after all, nor crisis, panic, despair, malevolence,
but merely a bit more of what’s already troubled you for years—
that and gravity’s fat thumb becoming heavier, heavier, heavier.
For others turning sixty life has become an uncontrollable, simplistic and fatalistic journey, “riding the late train, lights flashing on and off as the car clatters and sways waiting for that unimaginable last stop.”

I look at the mirror in the morning and notice my not so subtle changes now include a new turkey waddle and thinning hair. I see her beautiful form and incredible mind and sense of humor and realize that She is like the Boomers reinventing themselves as necessary to meet the challenges of a new era. While doing so she remains a constant pillar for me and all those around her. For her sixty is no sweet surrender, rather the time to celebrate life anew, a time to keep promises and hold tighter to her Friends and Family - a literal rock.

So to many, achieving this seniority is akin to the world turning upside down while for the rest of us and especially our good Friend just achieving this milestone, it’s all just starting to make sense. As Winston Churchill mused, “No one grows old by living. Only by losing interest in living.” The student has become the teacher and she doesn’t know it…yet.

To Mary, Aye,

Ned Buxton

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice birthday present, nice party