60 And Counting

At 7:27 this morning I officially turned 60 years old, but it was not the traumatic experience I had expected. I've known for a long time that it was coming, and it was a morning quite similar to most of the other 29,599 mornings I've experienced. Part of me is glad that I made it this far considering some of the experiences I've lived through. There have been more moments than I care to recall in which there was a good chance I wouldn't see 60. Two tours in Vietnam provided many of those moments. Fourteen years as an Air Force pilot and many more as a private pilot have added their share of moments. I even survived several jealous husband moments, so I have much for which to be thankful.

Still, the idea of being 60 is difficult for me to accept. Part of the problem is that I don't feel like I'm 60, but then I'm not sure how I'm suppose to feel. When my older sister turned 62 she said that it was her worst birthday because she became eligible for social security and thus clearly past middle age. But when she turned 50 she said that it was her most traumatic birthday because she feared she would never again get laid. Her fears were soon allayed (an appropriate word), but eventually that stops becoming a high priority. It's yet another part of aging to which I'm not looking forward. I guess there will be no more jealous husband moments for me unless I get lucky and find myself being chased by an angry but spry grandpa.

For most people birthdays start becoming less desirable after turning 25 when car insurance rates drop. We hate each succeeding birthday more than previous ones simply because it represents another year of progress toward old age and death. I think that is the bottom line. The older we get the more we evaluate our situation based on our estimated time remaining. I was in Vietnam when I turned 30, and my fellow pilots started calling me the 'old man.' Ah, the good old days.

I have no physical reason to feel 60, and friends tell me I look more like 48. I find little solace in this since I don't really want to look 48 either. Being a college professor I am use to looking at, and associating with, 18 - 22 year olds. I want to look like them. My friends are all much younger than I am, and I have no children to watch grow older, so the benchmarks for my aging are limited to birthdays and younger people asking me how old I am.

I do notice my aging when I look in the mirror or at old photos of myself. The worst thing one can do is to lay a mirror on a horizontal surface and look down into it. That's enough to make anyone over 40 seriously consider a facelift. If you are over 40, don't do it. The trauma of it will haunt you ever after. And I'm reminded of my aging when I meet old friends who I've not seen for 20 or 30 years. I am usually shocked at how old they look, and I feel old by association. I'm sure they are thinking the same thing but are too polite to say so. My 40th high school reunion was a real eye-opener.

It doesn't help that AARP keeps sending me membership forms, or meeting people my age and younger who are already retired and/or have grandchildren. Some even have great-grandchildren. Then there are the younger ones who die from heart attacks and make me wonder if I am next. I now select doctors, dentists, and lawyers who are younger than I am so that they won't die first, forcing me to find new ones. The positive side of this is that the older I get, the fewer 'older' doctors, dentists and lawyers there are.

And I worry more about retirement. When should I retire? Where should I retire? What will I do when I retire? Will I have enough money when I retire? What will happen to me when I am too old or too sick to take care of myself? These are not happy things to look forward to. And now that I am another year closer to the reality of them, I understand why there are so many old people in church.

Sixty and counting...