Thursday, July 26, 2012

Turning Sixty

Before I tackle the monumental subject of aging—my aging in particular—I have a few announcements. First, you may have noticed that I surpassed the fifty followers I needed to award the prize of an autographed copy of one of my books. The winner is Christa Polkinhorn, who has chosen the award-winning Protecting the Cittern. Congratulations, Christa, your book is on its way.

I've been informed that some followers weren't showing up on my view of the blog, because they set themselves up as a "private" rather than a "public" follower. If you did that, check your settings and make the change, because you'll want to be included in my next giveaway. That's right, I'm doing it again. This time my goal is 100 followers, and when I reach that lofty number, I will ask three questions whose answers can be found in my blog posts. Don't worry, they'll be easy. The first person to answer all three questions correctly will receive his or her choice of book. All you have to do to add yourself as a follower is click on "Join This Site" by Google Friend Connect, or click on "Follow This Blog" by Networked Blogs. Both sections are on the right. Then follow the instructions.

Now, on to some serious business. Recently, July 24 to be exact, I reached a personal milestone—my 60th birthday. I don't know how that happened. I should have been paying more attention, but I turned my back for what seemed like only a few minutes and BOOM, there it was. Last I remembered I was graduating from college, got a job, got married, my daughter was born, then she got married and had two kids, and here I am. As quickly as it took to read that sentence, my life flashed before my eyes, thumbed its nose and said, "Hope you enjoyed it!"

I never gave much thought to aging as I reached each new round number. Thirty, forty, and fifty came and went without me batting an eye. For some reason this one is making me reflect a bit more than usual. I've been kidding my friends and family that I finally reached middle age, but obviously I know better. The odds of me reaching 120 are pretty remote, although I'll do my best to get there. But I'm fairly sure the truth is I'm closer to the end of the book than the beginning. I just hope the book is War and Peace and not The Old Man and The Sea!

I also have started wondering if I'm acting my age. This was never a concern of mine before, either. For example, I still listen to rock music, mostly the artists who were popular when I was younger. Some who are no longer recording, The Beatles are a good example, and some who continue to put out new music, like Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen. Over the years I've added jazz and classical music to my listening rotation, but the music I loved as I was growing up will always be my favorite. Some artists have adjusted to their aging fans, some might say they sold out, but I wouldn't be so harsh. Rod Stewart has been doing fine with his last few albums of standards, but I'd rather hear him sing "Bad 'n' Ruin" with The Faces, or anything he did as a vocalist for Jeff Beck. I also still play a little air guitar during the introduction of "Layla" when no one is looking. Pretend you didn't read that!

Some countries have customs to honor people when they turn sixty, mostly Eastern cultures who revere their elders. Traditional Chinese calendars were organized in 60-year cycles, so on a person's sixtieth birthday the calendar turns over and they customarily celebrate their second birth. They receive symbolic presents, like long noodles to symbolize a long life. I received a card with "Over the Hill" in large type, and a box of adult diapers.

In Korea, guests at a 60th birthday party sit at a banquet table in order of age. Starting with the youngest, the children bow to their elders and pour them wine. Guests take part in activities to remind them of their youth, playing games and dressing up in silly clothing*. At my party we all played kick-the-can wearing tie-dyed t-shirts and bell-bottomed jeans.

Fortunately, there are two activities I participate in that I can continue for years to come. First, I play golf. Admittedly, I play golf badly, but I can play golf badly until I drop. And, of course, I write. That's my main source of activity and social contact. I'm inspired by writer friends I've come to know who are in their eighties and nineties and continue to write well and market their books, and participate in workshops to help novices. They helped me when I got started and I hope I am following their example. I think I can honestly say that because of them I now write much better than I play golf.

So for now, I just hope to be able to continue what I'm doing and derive as much pleasure as I can from it for as long as possible. And who knows? In another sixty years, if you sneak up on me, you may catch me playing air guitar while listening to Jimi Hendrix.

* Cultural information courtesy of