Wednesday, December 25, 2013


Recently I turned 65, which officially makes me a Senior Citizen.  Surprisingly, the clock turning over another “milestone” number did not bother me very much, other than the attendant flail in signing up for Medicare.

But I did reflect on a few previous chronological events, and here’s how I remember them:

Eighteen.  Old enough to vote, which still strikes me as an extraordinarily bad idea.  It’s right up-down there with sixteen-year-old drivers.  (In case anybody thinks THAT’S a good idea, consult the nearest parents or insurance agents.)  Yes, I’ve heard all the rationales for reducing the age of “maturity” from 21 to 18, and none of them hold up.  “If you’re old enough to die for your country, you’re old enough to vote.”  Well, actually no, you’re not.  Presumably voting requires mature judgment, which is rare enough in people 40 to 70 years of age, let alone teenagers.  And ignoring the huge majority of U.S. military history from Bunker Hill onward, if it were true, why do all 50 states still hold the drinking age at 21?

Twenty-one.  Which was FORTY-FOUR years ago.  For obscure reasons, I vaguely remember thinking that Things Would Be Different From Now On, but mainly they continued on the trajectory I’d launched at 18.  I was a year from collecting my journalism diploma from the University of Oregon and naively thought that the sheepskin would open the door to a career, especially with my string of published articles and some broadcast experience.  But actually, I got more of a practical education when my first job interview at a Portland TV station ended with, “You’re the wrong sex and the wrong color.” 

Thirty.  That one I remember for its surprisingly mild impact.  Unlike ladies’ oft-reported angst, maybe my attitude was a Guy Thing.  “OK, I’m 30.  This isn’t so bad.  Actually it feels dang good!”

As they say in Hollywood, lapse-dissolve, fade in to Forty.  Now that’s 33 1/3 percent older than Thirty, which is Statistically Significant.  But honestly, I barely thought about it.  I was past the halfway mark of the Biblical threescore and ten but I was reasonably successful, enjoying my work and only somewhat aware that I was still single.  Forty was not bad, not bad at all.

Fifty.  Or, more accurately, FIFTY!!!  Now that’s a Serious Number.  When The Big Five-Oh rolls over on the odometer you know you’re farther from The Beginning than The End.  It’s a time for talking stock, considering where you’ve been, where you want to go, and computing the time-space continuum as the days begin trickling-dwindling down.  As Der Tag approached I didn’t actually sulk but I admit to moping some.  Maybe for as much a couple of weeks.  But then I awoke one morning and realized that I could continue in Mope Mode or I could shed it, because either way I was still gonna be Fifty.

So I decided to throw myself a Big Five-Oh Party.  I still have the announcement, which included:

How to mark half a century on this earth?

Answer: throw a party for those you met along the way.  Those whom you value, who shared the good times as well as the bad, who helped you over some of the rough spots, and who mattered.  Especially those who still do.

Nobody could list all the people or all the events that shaped each of us into who we are—that would take a very large book, and I’ve written a couple dozen.  But here’s some who mattered most:

My parents, who gave me life and a moral compass.

My brothers, who gave me grief for years.  Then one day I was able to leave them behind when I went off to school and started kindergarten.

My wingmen, most of whom were better “sticks” but might have flown off the edge of the earth without somebody to navigate for them.

My pards who rode the shooting ranges of the New West to a national championship.

My editors, some of whom are smart enough to leave my prose alone.

My publishers, some of whom actually seem interested in selling books.

My friends.  Their numbers dwindle, making them all the more valuable.

Today, in 2013, I guesstimate that nearly half of those who attended that event are gone, including my mother and my best-ever best friend.  Yet others have arisen as our orbits crossed, and I’m increasingly grateful for them—and even moreso for my bride, Sally.

There have been enormous changes in 15 years.  Neither the nation nor the world is better off than in 1998, and some usually-optimistic folks have a hard time believing that things will improve anytime soon. 

However, if you’ll check back in ten years I’ll be glad to amend that view if conditions warrant it.