In many ways, 65 is just another birthday.  But it certainly calls to mind an old joke, used to talk about how remote a town or a house is, when you’d say, “it’s not the end of the world, but you can see it from there.” 

Sixty-five is the last milestone on the road to the end of life. 

There have been a lot of others along the way, some memorable and worth looking forward to, like turning 16 when I became old enough to drive a car or 21 when I became a man.  But soon after passing those early signposts, the next few became less and less desirable indications of progress.

To someone of my generation, the mind set about them went something like this.  There was 30, after which no one could be trusted, and then 40, the so-called beginning of middle age, at which some promised that “life begins.” 

Fifty carried no particular popular perception, but at that age one could officially join AARP. So I did.  I wanted to taste the experience for one last time of being the youngest member of an organization.  It seems like it was only yesterday. 

And now today, I pass the last signpost.  The next one is made of stone and will have, not just a beginning date, but an ending one too.

Sixty-five is not the end of life … but you can sure see it from here.

18 thoughts on “65

  1. Jerry Pounds

    Happy Birthday!

    Reaching 65 is a seminal event. It is not only a marker of time, but it is accompanied by a change in perspective. I saw the end from 60–and whether you make that transition from 60 or 65 it is a sea-change that colors your thoughts and feelings.

    Your experiences are henceforth tainted with the subtle awareness that there are only a few similar experiences left to you. A sunset, sunrise, Christmas, drink with a friend, conversation with a loved one, morning cup of coffee–each one could be the last. Not in some figurative sense, but literally.

    It is not being drole to consider this reality, but it is part of the move to a new stage in your life–the realization of the value of the little things you have taken for granted. I think it is a good thing and makes the last 20 years a fertile opportunity for experiencing the richness and beauty of life.

    Some of the old rhetorical questions about,”what would you do if you knew you only had a year to live?” are no longer exercises in speculation.

    So, you’ve burned up 65 years and now you have 15-20 left. Your faculties will gradually weaken and your mobility will be reduced–what do you do now to make it all worth while? How do you punctuate the last sentence?

  2. Juan

    Actually I believe the next signpost is 100!! More and more Baby Boomers and those close by are making it to 100, in fact it is the fastest growing segment of our U.S. population. So I hope you plan to use the next 35 years in a way that brings you joy, health, love and pleasure.

    Happy Birthday friend.

  3. Perry Post author

    Thank you, my cock-eyed optimist friend.

    The old Chinese saying, “may you live in interesting times,” is said to be a curse rather than a blessing. The signpost at 100 strikes me as very similar. But you are right that which it is depends on how I “use” the next X number of years.

  4. Perry Post author

    Thanks, David, I may just do that.

    By the way, you didn’t have to register for the blog to make a comment, but I appreciate your willingness to do that. Now that I’ve approved one of your comments, they will appear in the future immediately without having to be moderated.

  5. Daryl

    I dunno, Perry. 100 would be a pretty big milestone, and that’s a ways off yet. Oops, I see now that others have said pretty much the same thing. In any case, congrats on making it this far, and may the next couple or few decades surprise you.

  6. Perry Post author

    Thanks, Daryl. I assumed you meant pleasantly. I’m not planning on leaving any time soon, just existentially aware of the “800 pound gorilla in the living room” that most of us choose not to see most of the time.

  7. Michael Neel

    I’m very sorry Perry, but I voted no on the 65+ property tax issue =p

    Congrats on the last “legal” milestone crossed, spend those 401k’s like crazy. I don’t mean for this to make you sound old, but thinking about the fact you were born just before pearl harbor really impresses me. Needless to say, you’ve seen a lot!

  8. Perry Post author

    Don’t worry, Mike, you don’t need to do anything to “make me sound old.” πŸ˜‰

    Yep, one month to the day after I came into the world, we got our sucker punch in the Pacific.

    You might find it interesting that I turned 16 in 1957, just at the beginning of the Rock and Roll era when “the King” was a new phenomenon and to some horrified older folks, a shameful expression of youthful sexuality and vitality.

    I also lived through the dawning of the “Age of Aquarius,” the pot-smoking era of free love and the “Me Generation.” I was inspired politically by the “age of Camelot.” I narrowly missed being sent to Viet Nam but didn’t miss the upheaval it caused in our country, and I suffered through the loss of too many friends in the early years of the AIDS epidemic, while the President some admired so much refused to even mention the subject.

    So, like all the rest of us, I am the product of the times in which I have lived.

    As to your vote on the property tax issue, I would have expected nothing less of someone as young as you who holds your political point of view. Don’t worry. I canceled your vote on that issue and probably on a couple of others. πŸ˜‰

  9. Jerry Pounds

    As you know, I am a Dylan Thomas fan–you once gave me a book entitled, “The Life of Dylan Thomas,” which I still have. On my birthday, I always read one of his poems–“Poem in October,” which I have copied below. It presents the emotional experience of life’s transitions and evokes the sadness of lost innocence. It expresses hope for one who can consolidate the aesthetic experiences and the disappointments into a spiritual optimism. Read it for the sound, the rhyme and the rhythm.

    Poem in October

    It was my thirtieth year to heaven
    Woke to my hearing from harbour and neighbour wood
    And the mussel pooled and the heron
    Priested shore
    The morning beckon
    With water praying and call of seagull and rook
    And the knock of sailing boats on the net webbed wall
    Myself to set foot
    That second
    In the still sleeping town and set forth.

    My birthday began with the water-
    Birds and the birds of the winged trees flying my name
    Above the farms and the white horses
    And I rose
    In the rainy autumn
    And walked abroad in a shower of all my days.
    High tide and the heron dived when I took the road
    Over the border
    And the gates
    Of the town closed as the town awoke.

    A springful of larks in a rolling
    Cloud and the roadside bushes brimming with whistling
    Blackbirds and the sun of October
    On the hill’s shoulder,
    Here were fond climates and sweet singers suddenly
    Come in the morning where I wandered and listened
    To the rain wringing
    Wind blow cold
    In the wood faraway under me.

    Pale rain over the dwindling harbour
    And over the sea wet church the size of a snail
    With its horns through mist and the castle
    Brown as owls
    But all the gardens
    Of spring and summer were blooming in the tall tales
    Beyond the border and under the lark full cloud.
    There could I marvel
    My birthday
    Away but the weather turned around.

    It turned away from the blithe country
    And down the other air and the blue altered sky
    Streamed again a wonder of summer
    With apples
    Pears and red currants
    And I saw in the turning so clearly a child’s
    Forgotten mornings when he walked with his mother
    Through the parables
    Of sun light
    And the legends of the green chapels

    And the twice told fields of infancy
    That his tears burned my cheeks and his heart moved in mine.
    These were the woods the river and sea
    Where a boy
    In the listening
    Summertime of the dead whispered the truth of his joy
    To the trees and the stones and the fish in the tide.
    And the mystery
    Sang alive
    Still in the water and singingbirds.

    And there could I marvel my birthday
    Away but the weather turned around. And the true
    Joy of the long dead child sang burning
    In the sun.
    It was my thirtieth
    Year to heaven stood there then in the summer noon
    Though the town below lay leaved with October blood.
    O may my heart’s truth
    Still be sung
    On this high hill in a year’s turning.

  10. Perry Post author

    Thank you, Jerry. I have just read it aloud to myself but would love, instead, to hear the poet himself give it the proper inflections and emphasis.

  11. Perry Post author

    Seventy-seven and counting is something to be respected and honored, Bowen. You seem to be going strong, and I hope I am too when I reach that benchmark. Thanks for continuing to check in here.

  12. Gregory Nanopoulos

    I enjoyed your blog–and at forty years old see how we live in a youth dominated society. I often wonder what it would be like to have experienced the 60s/50s and before, it seems as if we are in a very cynical time. As I turn 41 next week I realize that life is finite as I will be retired way before 50. Good Blessings to come your way


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