Monday, September 3, 2007

A Lament at Sixty

My birthday coming up this week marks one of those life milestones. I will in fact turn 60. I have in front of me a chart showing Levinson's developmental eras and transitions of adulthood that tells me that I will be entering the transition to Late Adulthood. This is all enough to make me wish I were younger like the singer (Billy Ray Cyrus, I think) who sings "I want my mullet back" or the people in the Diet Pepsi commercials who decide that of all the things from their younger days they would prefer to have the Diet Pepsi.

The thing that strikes me the most is the reminders of mortality that are regularly presented. A comedian once said that at this age if you do not wake up with some kind of ache or pain you should consider the possibility that you have in fact died during the night. The aches and pains are a reminder that I am no longer young. The reality of death is another thing. Ten years ago a girl playing on the basketball team that I coached lost her mother suddenly. Fr. Mick asked if I would speak at the funeral and offer support to the girl and her family. Sadly I declined. At that time the thought of death caused me quite a bit of panic. Since then, because of deaths in my family, I have become more accustomed to death and funerals. In the last six years there have been five funerals in my immediate family beginning with a younger brother. 2006 was a horrible year with three funerals. I recall my older sister's remark sometime during this period that the funerals could not be why they called this "the golden years." What this does is hit you with the reality that you will not live forever and it takes a while to come to terms with that. My older brother, who died before he was 65 last year, often said that he was not afraid to die. I would respond that it would be a shame to die before you had to. So, there seems to be stuff to complain about and little to celebrate on a 60th birthday.

I know, of course, that there are also lots of opportunities for me at this age. Most obviously I am retired and am no longer tied to the job, even though teaching was a source of great fulfillment for me. I have a chance, and the time, to think and pray more seriously about my relationship to God. I have a chance to take more time to treasure the relationships with my surviving siblings even though I live quite a ways apart from most of them. I am grateful for the security and health that I do have. I know that both of my parents lived past their 85th birthday and so, if I look after my health, I can probably look forward to more good years. But I still don't think that I will celebrate my birthday later in the week.

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