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Hey! How Did My Age Become 60?

age, aging, birthday, birthdays, 60, "60 years old",

I just entered my seventh decade and can’t figure out how I got here.

Time gave me a hard nudge at 5:48 one afternoon a few days ago and I stumbled from middle age to senior citizen. Like it or not, at that moment I hit 60; it was like seeing a car crash coming from far off yet knowing you can’t avoid it. I knew intuitively that the world began seeing me as a coot, crank, crab, curmudgeon, a codger. Long ago, I accepted the fact that I was irrelevant to people selling enticing images of bikini’s, beaches and beer. But it’s unsettling to realize that my habits now are watched closely by people who make what folks in the disposable diaper game call the “Gramper’s” (cq) market when customers aren’t listening.

It doesn’t feel like it was a half-century ago when the world seemed very small.

Back then, everything and everyone worth knowing was within an easy bike ride. School was safe and kids learned because, if we didn’t, there was hell to pay. Summer vacation meant total freedom and endless possibilities. Kenny Paap’s (cq) yard was directly behind mine and the baseball diamond where we always found a pickup game was in a grassy field that we reached on foot in five minutes or in two on a bike. Behind Jimmy Hinsdorff’s (cq) yard were woods with a creek where, despite mother’s warning that “dangerous bums live there,” we concocted countless adventures. We never did see a bum, much to our dismay, so we speculated on what a bum might look like in case we spotted one.

It was a Mark Twain childhood but without the fence to whitewash or a runaway slave to share a raft down the Mississippi. But I did have a Becky Thatcher. Her name was Pamela Perlick (cq) and she lived five blocks from me. When I was eight, the time of our flirtation, we would meet in the alley behind her house and kiss chastely on the cheek. It was risky and thrilling and daring – until Butch Loemeister (cq) saw us and ratted to her mother. That ended that. I didn’t see Pamela the rest of the summer and, when school re-opened, I was crestfallen to learn that her family had moved. Never mind. We moved a few months later, too, so Pamela and I were doomed anyway.

Ike was president, times were good, people had jobs and money, kids didn’t need play dates, and no one imagined the social, economic and political earthquake awaiting us a few years up the road. Mother’s backyard picnics, dad hitting towering fly balls to me and my sister setting up her dollhouse on the drive were scenes repeated all over America. So were “duck and cover” drills that kept us safe from the dreaded Commies and watching the Ed’s on TV, Murrow and Sullivan: One kept us safe from anti-Commie crazies, one kept us entertained.

Suddenly, without warning, it is a few hundred lifetimes later.

Along the way, I skated through university, romped through four careers, blazed through a few wives and reveled in several other love affairs; some were significant others, some insignificant. Sometimes, my life was public and sometimes anonymous. I met people at high, middle and low levels of society; some were bright and interesting, some total duds, and it had nothing to do with where they were on the ladder. I went from being politically active to indifferent to cynical to angry before settling on active. Once a sort-of jock, my throbbing knees and truculent ankles remind me how much baseball and golf I used to play. I need glasses to read newspapers, in print and on-line.

Fortunately, the creep from kid to coot came slowly, starting about 15 years ago when I realized stewardesses were greeting me with a respectful “Hello, sir” instead of a flirtatious “Hi!” as I boarded a flight. It came as a jolt. I evolved over the years from weekend club crawls to weekends at friend’s homes to weekends at home, reading. I pay less attention to Victoria’s Secret commercials and more attention to ads assuring me that I can buy life insurance with no medical questions.

And I learned along the way that the world no longer seems small – and not just because it isn’t. The more places I’d go around the globe, the bigger it became. The more people I met, the fewer I knew. The more things I saw, the less I understood. The more I read, the less I fathomed.

As I marked my 60th, I thought about all of this and remembered something a now long-dead, favorite aunt told me on birthdays when I was a kid: “Too old too fast, too smart too slow.” I finally understand what she meant.
Published: 2008-03-18
Author: Charley James

About the author or the publisher
A former assistant editor of "Business Week" magazine, and a television news producer and reporter before that, Charley James began writing when he was about eight and hasn't stopped.

Now, he covers and writes news articles including his own independent investigative reporting, writes articles, websites and newsletters for clients, drafts speeches, creates and writes ad copy, and crafts humorous essays about things people encounter every day.

Charley has been published in many magazines.

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