When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now
Will you still be sending me a valentine, birthday greeting, bottle of wine
If I’ve been out ‘til quarter to three, would you lock the door
Will you still feed me, will you still need me, when I’m sixty-four.
I’m definitely older. I’m not losing my hair yet. I’ve never drank wine. And I’ve been out plenty of times until 2:45 a.m. coming home for work. And I turned 64 today.
The first time I heard the Beatles song “When I’m Sixty Four” it was part of their 1967 St. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. I was 11 years old at the time. At that point 30 years of age was old, 50 years was ancient, and 64 years was prehistoric.
Sixty-four also happened to be Jack Snyder’s age when I first met him after moving to Manteca 29 years ago. Jack was the Carl Ripken of Manteca city politics having served for 25 years. What that has to do with turning 64 is simple. If I’m now prehistoric, Jack is old as dirt.
Kidding aside Jack was one of those people who rewrote the book on aging expectations. At 64 he was getting his second wind having just founded Seniors Helping Area Residents and Police with then Police Chief Willie Weatherford. He also stepped up his involvement in virtually every Manteca non-profit and cause from A to Z including the Boys & Girls Club, Manteca Historical Society, and Give Every Child a Chance. And that was years before making his political comeback to once again serve on the Manteca City Council.
Now that I’ve dispatched that tidbit of Manteca history, it’s time for a bit of self-assessment that I’ve been doing on a regular basis when March 31 rolls around every year.
I’m not too sure if I’m aging gracefully, if I’m acting my age, or if age is relative. One thing I can assure you is that as you get older pain is relative and in my case it’s a first cousin.
I’m talking about physical pain such as that wonderfully nagging thigh pain you chose to ignore and not let it stop you in your tracks. Emotional pain is real but it tends to fade as you tear pages off the calendar.
I admit there are some advantages to being older. Topping my list is a rugby team short players won’t be asking you to “fill in” for a pickup game. I made a mistake in my heydays of bicycling when I thought I was in the best shape of my life to honor a friend’s request to do that without giving it much thought. That was a bad thing given I had no inkling of how rugby was played. In my one and only foray into the sport at age 31 I can tell you apparently it is played by wannabe American football linebackers who drink beer instead of Gatorade to rehydrate, had moves that would make Hulk Hogan cry for his mommy, and requires you to bite a player on the ankle to get him to release the ball. In my case the bite marks disappeared after a few weeks and I didn’t need rabies shots.
That Sunday afternoon in Rusch Park in Citrus Heights made me realize Clint Eastwood was the guru of modern men if based on nothing else but the line he uttered in the movie “Dirty Harry”— a man’s got to know his limitations.
Given my tendency to want to be nerdy at times you’d think I’d quote someone like Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr. He’s the 19th century French satirist, journalist, and novelist known for stringing together words for short satirical observations known as epigrams. One of his more famous one translates into English roughly as “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
I’d say that pretty much sums up what little of world history I’ve experienced in 64 years. You can have all of the “disruptions”, cutting edge tech, “enlightened” political movements, and young idealistic and self-righteous Greta Thunbergs you want but when push comes to shove Alphonse Karr nailed it.
As for taking Eastwood’s sage advice to heart and the fact I almost became a cripple going blindly into doing something I had no idea what it was on a March afternoon 35 years ago, it didn’t exact scare me into always staying in my comfort zone. What it has done is give me pause at the right moment to know when I’ve reached my limits.
The defining moment for coming to my senses not a minute too late was when I thought I was taking an easier way up and over the moraine of the Palisades Glacier — a 14.3-mile roundtrip hike in the Eastern Sierra outside of Big Pine — than the route everyone else I met along the way advised me to take. Moraines are essentially a wall of loose rocks and boulders an expanding glacier creates as it advances over the years. I was five feet from pulling myself to the top when I realized that I was way outside of my comfort zone for rock scrambling and that just one miscue at the angle I was at would likely send me tumbling downhill like a loose pebble for at least 100 feet if not more. I backed off when I reminded myself my pull up strength was rather pathetic.
That little experience from two years ago leads me to another thing I’ve learned. You can always take a second stab at something and if you do just try and approach it smarter. Freely translated I’m going back this year as a 64 year-old and take the “easier” longer route that everyone told me to take across the rock field.
I need to make it clear I do not consider myself an expert at much. And anyone who thinks they’ve totally mastered something regardless of their age is a fool for believing so.
Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of people, young and old, who are very good at what they do. But if they don’t understand that the pinnacle they’ve reached will ultimately be eclipsed by someone else down the line in terms of knowledge or physical accomplishment must foolishly believe they are part of “the generation” that will stand the test of time thousands of years from now.
If I can part with some advice to anyone regardless of their age, it is this: We’ve beaten tremendous odds not just to be conceived as who we are but to make it to a number of milestones whether it is birth, age 21, age 60 or age 101. Why would you waste a winning hand by squandering your life?
Kenny Rogers called it. Every hand is a winner and every hand is a loser. What counts is not just how you play the game but the fact you are willing to play.