On Turning 64

Today is my birthday. An old Beatles song keeps running through my head: Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64?

Fortunately, I’m still quite capable of feeding myself.

I realize now that I was so busy refusing to be middle-aged that I missed out on middle age altogether. Halfway is far behind me. I’m not going to hang around to hit 128.

Mainly I’m astonished. I haven’t been able to wrap my mind around my age for years. It really doesn’t matter. I feel like I’m still somewhere in my forties.

My husband Lee is only a couple years older than I am. We belong to the same generation and background-wise came from pretty much the same place. We talk sometimes about how glad we are to have come of age in the era that we did.

The 60’s and 70’s. Bell-bottoms and miniskirts, platform shoes and tie-dye. And polyester. It is very bizarre to see some of this stuff come back. Someone told me that if I was old enough to remember tie-dye, I was too old to wear it.

That sort of asinine attitude has inspired me to come up with my very own acronym. BMSB. Bite my senior butt.

I have a dresser drawer filled with tie-dye.

I also have a pair of black knee-high tooled leather platform boots left over from the 70’s, and still wear them sometimes.

Haight-Ashbury. Flower children. Peace and love; sex, drugs, rock and roll. Sex didn’t kill you in those days, and the drugs available thank God were nothing like the drugs available now, and the music was still music and not just noise.

Not according to our parents, of course. I remember the furor over the debilitating and doubtless immoral effects of rock and roll.

Myself, I crossed the generation gap with hip-hop.

And yeah, I inhaled. I kept on inhaling until I started getting paranoid and inhaling wasn’t fun anymore. But I had enough sense never to try acid, or anything that required me sticking a needle in one of my veins.

Amphetamines, however, were a different thing. I did not have good sense when it came to amphetamines.

Lee and I were both more late Beatnik than early Hippie. He hung out in coffee shops. I dyed my hair black and dressed all in black and had a passion for existentialist poetry. At one point in the 60’s I did drop out altogether, but not for long. Total irresponsibility doesn’t work for those of us who aren’t good at sitting still. When I was 24, I met my first husband, and that was the end of my freewheeling days for a good long while. Lee was married for the first time when he was 21.

Civil rights. Viet Nam. Rowe versus Wade.

I wonder sometimes how much has really changed. Not the self-serving politicians, certainly. Not the tendency of fanatics to try and kill off those who don’t share their beliefs. Not the eternal abortion debate.

Lee points out that things have changed, just way slower than we might have wished.

Rowe versus Wade did become law, and most likely will remain law, even though it seems to be threatened at every turn. How can anyone want to see the return of the days of back-room coat-hanger abortions? Women aren’t going to stop having abortions, whether they’re legal or not. Members of my generation tend to have a whole different perspective on the right-to-life debate.

I also remember the furor when Kennedy ran for president. A lot of people were horrified by the thought of an Irish Catholic in the White House.

And a lot weren’t. He won.

Today, in the current election, we’ve come so far along the road to enlightenment that we have a liberal African American – is that term politically correct? I’ve stopped trying to keep track – and a moose-shooting female on the slate. If either one of them had sufficient experience to do the job, I’d be more enthused.

In my 60’s-biased, anti-establishment opinion, whichever party wins the current election, the country is still screwed.

We’ve had similar but different lives, Lee and I. He achieved a degree of recognition as a musician. I achieved a degree of recognition as a novelist. We both had the great good fortune to have the opportunity to do what we did out in the greater world. By the time we met, in our forties, we’d both given up those things – in his case to support a family; in mine, when my first marriage ended, to support myself. We met while working on a television movie called ‘Assault and Matrimony’. He was the film editor; I was involved with replacement dialogue. I picked him up in a bar a couple years later. (That’s the way he likes to tell the story.) We’ve been together ever since.

Though not at the same time, we also left show biz behind. I returned to writing. Lee has reclaimed his music, though he doesn’t perform out in the world any more. Which is the world’s loss.

We agree on most of the important things. Including that — in spite of ups and downs and potholes in the road — life thus far has been a long, strange and altogether wonderful trip.

I’m feeling nostalgic this morning. That’s ok. I’ve earned the right.

There are any number of great songs about growing older, among them Bob Dylan’s “Tryin’ To Get To Heaven”: I’ve been to Sugartown, I shook the sugar down…

The voice of a generation, indeed.

Dylan is one of the things on which Lee and I don’t agree. Lee isn’t a Dylan fan. He says the man can’t sing.

Who cares? I’ve been in love with Bobby Zimmerman since I was nineteen years old.

It’s all about the words.

There there’s Levon Helm’s “Wide River to Cross”: I’ve come a long long road, but still I’ve got some miles to go…

Ah, well.

The cats, both indoor and outdoor, are flourishing. Lee is currently in Ireland. He’s flourishing, too.

I’ve spent hours writing this. No off-the-top-of-my-head blog posts for me. Now I’m going to shut down the computer and go out into the world to enjoy my holiday.

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Well said. I’m sixty-four today. I’m 64 TODAY. Good grief. God help me. My husband says I’m “another year sexier”. Right.

  2. Happy birthday! (And thanks for giving me a reason to re-read that blog post.) I like your husband’s remark. A word of warning: 65 is even worse. The Medicare card popped up in the mail way earlier than I expected it to and I went into instant oh-my-God-I-got-OLD meltdown.

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