“Enjoy every sandwich”
- Warren Zevon.
In a little known book entitled Lost Trumpets, former Nixon aide Bruce Herschensohn observed; “People don’t grow old gradually like the spilling of sand through an hourglass. Instead, people grow old in inconsistent leaps after long periods of stillness. Like watching a frog, there is no way to predict when the next jump will occur, or how much distance the jump will cover.”
My frog is ready. At 50, the social calendar says my life will leap from being relatively old for a young man to that of being relatively young for an old man. To me it’s a worthy milestone, I’ve been telling people I’m 50 for so long, it’s nice to actually make it. I’m proud of it. Life should give you a 50-year pin like the Kiwanis Club. Simply surviving from a newborn to the half-century mark should entitle us to at least one of these presents from Oprah. If I stay away from the mirrors, I never think of aging, but if it’s true that at 50 you have the face you deserve, I’m going to appeal.
I started off trying to write a list of what advantages there are to being 50. It was a short one; 1) I don’t need a comb, because I haven’t had to comb my hair in a couple of years. 2) I don’t need an alarm clock, because I’m usually waiting around for the sun to come up. 3) That was about it. I understand that I can sign up for AARP, but I don’t get any benefits. There are no special tax breaks. The guys I play basketball with won’t give me any free ones.
So I thought about what I’ve learned in the first 50 years. But I find myself answering “I don’t know” to a lot more questions than I used to. You’d think I would have learned more. Socrates said “The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know.” Maybe I’ve learned so much that I don’t know anything.
Back in my first year of college, I wrote a paper that I called “On Becoming Twenty”. I’m amazed not only that I kept it but that I was able to find it. On the eve of this anniversary, I wanted to see what had changed.
“The important thing,” it began, “is that I made it to 20, that I’m alive, that I have two legs and ten toes, all my fingers and all my senses, little else really matters.” It goes on to describe a young man in search of himself. Trying to analyze his circumstances and understand what things are important to him, what things he ultimately wanted from his life and what direction he might go from there. I’m sure that he never imagined the road that led him here.
I’ve come to believe now that your life is not something you find, but something you create with your beliefs and choices. I’ve gone through life like a grocery store. There was never an aisle I was afraid to walk down, never a product I was afraid to look at, but the challenge was always choosing what I put into my cart.
I don’t know if this is where I’m supposed to be or not, (If I was one to plan ahead, I would have bought more real estate.) But I have everything to be thankful for. I have healthy, happy children and work I enjoy. I have the respect of true friends and the love of a good woman.
It’s funny, those are the same things I wanted at 20.
Don R. Kindred