I am now 64 years old. It’s time for my annual reflection column.
I woke up Tuesday morning to my wife Ginny’s words saying, “Happy Birthday.” My response was disappointing: “Oh rats. It’s true. It’s my birthday.”
I later explained to a friend. “My birthday is boring. Either your normal day is interrupted by a deluge of texts, emails, calls and messages, or no one cares, which is even more boring. So in all case, it’s boring.
Thank god I didn’t get any gifts other than a bottle of wine. My closet is already full of clothes from decades from Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day and the like. There is no room left ! If it’s not immediately consumable, I don’t want it.
I knew Ginny wouldn’t feel well unless she did something, so I asked her to make this side dish of endive salad that she used to make and that I like. She still likes to cook.
I bumped into her at the Corner Market, pissed off. “I went to four grocery stores. I can’t find any endive! Again, I failed in my efforts to make my birthday a non-event.
In the end we found an endive substitute and had a great late night dinner with friends and family, nine in all, a good size. As usual around our table, the conversation flowed quickly. If you don’t learn to interrupt, you may never say a word.
My lifelong friend, Bob Crisler, insisted that I play “When I’m 64” on my guitar. It’s a Beatles song released in 1967. I was nine years old. I remember listening to it when I was nine and wondering what it must have been like to be 64. And now I am.
Frustratingly, I couldn’t find my handwritten version of the song, scribbled down 40 years ago, converting the chords to the correct singing pitch for my voice. But I found it in an old Beatles songbook.
When I get old I lose my hair
many years from now.
Will you still send me a valentine?
Birthday wishes? Bottle of wine?
If I had been out until a quarter to three,
would you lock the door?
Will you still need me?
Will you feed me again?
When I’m sixty-four.
In fact, I don’t lose my hair. In fact, it’s as thick as when I was in high school with barely any gray. (And no, despite accusations from many acquaintances, I don’t dye it. I’m not that vain.) I would have rather had money than hair, but that’s life.
I’m good at fixing a fuse. And we uproot the weeds in the garden, so the other verses of the song were specific on both of those points. However, I haven’t seen Ginny knit me a sweater by the fire yet, and we don’t have any grandkids yet.
As the wine flowed, there were more guitar songs. Bob insisted, being summer, that we play Bruce Springsteen’s “Racing in the Streets” for the umpteenth time. It’s one of his favorites. He likes sad guitar ballads. Living in Jackson, I can definitely relate to racing in the streets.
I met her on the strip three years ago
In a Camaro with that dude from LA
I blew that Camaro on my back
And chased away that little girl
But now there are wrinkles
around my baby’s eyes
And she cries to sleep at night
When I come home the house is dark
She sighs, “baby do you have
She’s sitting on the porch
from his father’s house
But all her pretty dreams are torn apart
She stares alone into the night
With the eyes of one who just hates being born
For all the closed strangers
and the hot rod angels
Rumbling through this promised land
Tonight me and my baby
we will go to the sea
And wash these sins from our hands
On a whim, I played an old Carl Perkins song that I hadn’t played in ages called Go Cat Go:
Oh sometimes it ain’t easy man
to unroll the bed.
And shake off the cobwebs
hanging on your head.
But you were born
to be in the human race.
And if you don’t start moving,
you will finish in last place.
You gotta go-go-go, you gotta go-cat-go,
you have to go cat go.
Hey, this sun is up
and you can’t hang around.
Drop your buttocks,
you can’t do it sitting down.
Don’t say you can’t
can never do anything.
If you believe you can
and you can do anything.
It will always be something
no matter who you are.
The poor have their worries,
just like the movie star.
Throw away your problem,
you get light on your feet.
Just listen to the music man
and move with the beat.
MIND THE STEP
and stay out of your brother’s toes.
If your brother needs your help,
help him carry his heavy burden.
And when this thing is over,
someone bigger than you and me
will award each winner eternal life.
The next morning the alarm clock went off and I opened my eyes. The first thing I said, as always, was “Thank God for a good night’s sleep.” Then I was left there realizing that my whole life had pretty much been summed up in a Carl Perkins rockabilly ditty. It’s humiliating.
A few hours later, I received a text from a former college roommate informing me that one of our roommates had died of cancer. We had lost touch over the years. I now come to that period of life when your contemporaries begin to die.
It is impossible for the human mind to understand death. Trying to do so triggers the survival instinct, the most powerful human emotion, and can lead to panic. I learned not to even go there.
Having strong faith helps in this regard, a reward for getting up every Sunday and going to church and studying the scriptures. It’s worth every minute and more. If death is nothing then life would be nothing but we know life is something so death cannot be nothing. For me, it’s as simple as that. I love my family on earth but I miss my mother, my father and the others deeply.
My father was 65 when he died suddenly of a heart attack. I may be a day older or 40 years old. Who knows? So every morning, I always roll out of bed.