Most of you are reading this in a newspaper on Thursday, April 7th which is my 60th birthday. My sister, Jane, sent me a card saying: “We spent our entire youth laughing at old people.” Inside, it said: “We are SO screwed.”It’s actually my 61st birthday if you count the first in 1951 at the end of which I was one day old. A year later, when I was one year old, would have been my second birthday, and so on. Today is the first day of my 61st year. I’m not just 60 - I’m “in my sixties.” I’m beginning my seventh decade. A friend reached this milestone last year and when asked how old he was, he’d say “Fifty-ten."Our newest granddaughter, Lila
The way we measure time is relative and this was best exemplified by a small sign I saw on the outside of a bathroom door once which read: “How long a minute is, is relative to which side of this door you’re on.” When I was about ten, a year seemed a very long time because it was one-tenth of my life. Now it’s only one-sixtieth and goes by quickly. I formulated a scale for age when I was ten: Up to twelve, you’re a kid. Then you’re a teenager until age twenty. After that you’re a young adult from twenty to forty. Forty to sixty you’re middle-aged and from sixty on, you’re old.
I finished “late middle age” yesterday. Today I’m “early old.”
I’m not sure how sixty is supposed to feel, but so far it’s pretty good. I’m in good shape, but I haven’t as much stamina. I can still do everything, but I prefer shorter intervals. I can deal with that, but mentally there are other effects. Sometimes I can’t recall the name of something until ten or twenty minutes after the conversation has ended or shifted to another subject. It’s in my head somewhere, but it’s as if it were on a slip of paper and buried under stacks of other paperwork on the desktop of my mind.
My hair is thinning, but it’s still mostly brown. Students ask me if I dye it and it bothers me that they’d think I would. If it were gray, I definitely wouldn’t dye it. That’s okay for women, but vain for a man. Why? I don’t know. That’s what I feel about it. My wife is a year younger than me and her hair is mostly silver. I’m glad she leaves it that way because it’s attractive. There’s a certain strength I sense in women who take care of themselves and allow their hair to age naturally.
Another thing that makes me feel older is when guys in their thirties call me “Sir.” It’s not when they’re trying to sell me something either. It’s happening when I meet them socially. I’ve never been in the military and to be addressed as “sir” is unfamiliar. Students have been calling me “Mr. McLaughlin” for decades but that’s different. The “Sir” thing is going to take some getting used to.
Softball season starts soon. It’ll be my thirty-fourth year playing Thursday nights at Westways in Lovell. I’m one of the older guys now, but last year there were still some showing up who were older. This year, we’ll see. Some younger than me have stopped playing already and come just to watch and drink beer.For about ten or twelve years now, I haven’t had a strong urge to hunt deer - and it used to be overpowering. I’ve been thinking maybe it’s due to diminished testosterone levels because I’d rather go into the woods and shoot pictures. So, I buy chuck-eye steaks at Hannaford’s Supermarket, which I like better than venison anyway. It might not be testosterone though because I still get the urge to punch some someone in the head once in a while. I haven’t actually done it for about thirty years, but it has crossed my mind, and that’s a testosterone thing too. Maybe the urge will diminish someday or go away entirely, but I don’t think so. There’s no shortage of people around still who desperately need a punch in the head, and they still cross my path.
An old priest once told that “As I get older, I care more and more about less and less.” I took that to mean he didn’t sweat the small stuff anymore. He accepted things he could not change and he tried harder to change the things that mattered most - and upon which he could have some effect. I’m pondering his words more lately and it’s helping me make decisions about what to do with whatever time remains for me on this earth.