Thursday, April 28, 2011

Turning Sixty: A Junior-Senior is Born

Aging is something that I never thought could happen to me. At sixteen I believed I might live to twenty-two. At twenty-two following the death of my mother, the suicide of my grandmother and the death of her husband, my grandfather, three months after that, I was sure that my life would be over within the year.

But life is funny. The survival instinct is overpowering. If you just keep putting one foot in front of the other, time passes. There is always one more dinner, one more drink, one more joint, one more line, one more TV show and one more movie. So it goes. What some refer to as "substance abuse," I now think of as self-medication. It saved my life. There was my sister Lori, to care for, she hadn't yet finished high school. And my old friend Barb who I'd run into at my mother's funeral. She was living in a trailer in a campground. Having worked as a bartender, she really knew how to "entertain." She claimed her life in Ohio was going nowhere fast. So, my sister, Barb and I set off in search of a sea change in the wide open promise of California.

When I tell folks I came out here to live thirty-eight years ago, they look at me with the kind of dismissive disbelief with which I used to regard old people. Sometimes it feels as though every sentence I speak is loaded down with time. I'll say I lived in San Francisco for fourteen years, but now I've lived in the East Bay for twenty-one. These are huge numbers. The folks who are the "right age" now were born in the eighties. When I was thirty-something, I admitted to myself that when I looked over a crowd of people, I only saw the ones in my age group. That seems natural for the young. It must have to do with mate selection and sex drive. I'm sure Charles Darwin could explain it.

In two years I'll qualify for Social Security, if we still have it. I work half-time now, not completely of my own volition, but sometimes even that seems like too much. I'm still strong and healthy but my energy level is not what it used to be. I remember working full time from 8:30 to 5:30, picking up a burrito on the run and then attending a political meeting that lasted until 9:30 or so. Following that meeting, we'd often go to a bar to drink and play pool until closing.

Ah, youth, definitely wasted on the young. If you'd told me then that one day I'd be blogging about it, you could have proved the existence of a parallel universe on a time/space continuum. And, speaking of physics,  if Stephen Hawking can make peace with his limited body, I'm sure I can learn to accept mine.