I recently maintained the opinion I had slipped into the netherworld of “middle age,” but I somehow doubt I’ll still be kicking at 104.
That means I’m on the downhill side of life, closer to 60 than to 40. Closer to being considered a grouchy old geezer than a pretentious punk. At 52, closer to death than birth.
But does turning a few pages on life’s calendar mean one has to slow down? To give in to the inevitable changes that come with the passing of a few years?
Like many of my era – those who remember the Kennedy assassination, Woodstock and other landmark events – I’m not about to go gently into that good night. Despite body parts that sometimes yearn for a rocking chair, we remain convinced that life begins at 50…or whatever age we happen to be.
Seeking inspiration to fight the mental battle against yet another birthday on the horizon, I called upon the wisdom of those who have previously walked this path.
Victor Hugo certainly didn’t help. Ol’ Vic might have penned some great lines in his day, but not this one: “Forty is the old age of youth; fifty the youth of old age.” Fifty isn’t on speaking terms with old age.
Truman Capote didn’t help, either, when he wrote, “Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act.” Of course, one never really knows when the curtain gets lifted on life’s third act; at least, not until the final curtain falls. By then, who cares?
I’ve always preferred sports guys to literary types, so where does the great broadcaster Vin Scully weigh in on this topic? He simply, eloquently described middle age as “a mere moment in a man’s life between an all-star game and an old-timers’ game.” That one I like.
If there’s comfort in being a “50-something” it’s that there are simply so many of us. Baby Boomers have shaped the world as we know it, mostly for the better, one hopes, but often for the worse.
Kurt Vonnegut wrote that “True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.” Recalling many of my contemporaries, I didn’t trust them behind the wheel of a car; I suppose they’re the ones we were supposed to trust with our mortgages.
In the end, the only salvation is in refusing to accept the onslaught of years, clinging to the belief that we’re the coolest generation in the history of planet earth. We might be “middle” but we’ll surely never hit “old.”
We cling to the notion of wise jurist Oliver Wendall Holmes, who correctly maintained that “old age is 15 years older than I am.”