Sunday, October 09, 2005


There are several milestones in everyone’s life. (At least, those fortunate enough to not have to skip any.)

First, you’re born. Not much to say about this, since no one remembers being born except Shirley McLaine.

The first memorable milestone is your eighteenth birthday, when you legally become an adult and can tell those penurious sadists who raised you to take a hike, unless and until you need money or a place to stay.

Next is your twenty-first birthday, when you get to see the look on the face of the bartender who’s been serving you for two years when you show him your driver’s license.

No one likes thirty; you’re officially grown up then, and describing an action as a “youthful indiscretion” doesn’t excuse it, unless you’re a politician.

Forty gets mixed reviews. Some say life begins at forty: others view it as the Gateway to Middle Age. The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

At fifty there’s no kidding anyone. You’re middle-aged, at the penultimate milestone. The only thing to look forward to is hoping the Icy Hand of Death™ gets you before you have to pay strangers to wipe your ass.

Then comes the pre-ordained stroll down Memory Lane as your life flashes before your eyes, fingers intertwined with the aforementioned Icy Hand.

Only the first and last are mandatory. Fortunately, a majority of us get to have them all. Since each one brings you closer to your rendezvous with the IHD, the latter milestones are often viewed with some trepidation. (The earlier ones are enjoyed, since everyone under thirty knows they’re going to live forever.) Let’s be honest, it doesn’t matter where you are in the series, every day you wake up is one less.

Your influence on that is twofold. Your actions can, to some degree, influence how many of those mornings you get to count down. No one has total control; not a week goes by that I’m not reminded of the late Military Intelligence Correspondent, who didn’t smoke, drank very little, indulged in no drugs or life-threatening experiences, and still felt the Icy Hand on his shoulder at the age of forty-seven.

What you can control is how you handle it. To paraphrase a birthday card I bought for a female friend’s thirtieth birthday once, you can view each day as being older than you’ve ever been before, or as being younger than you’re ever going to be. (This might have something to do with why she and I haven’t spoken in over ten years. I guess it’s unreasonable to expect a person that young to grasp certain metaphysical concepts.) I have chosen the latter.

As my penultimate milestone approaches, I have made a conscious decision to embrace it, have some fun with it, thumb my nose at the Icy Hand. Today starts the countdown to The Big Five-Oh; one hundred more days until my forties are but a memory, with no more substance than the Red Sox’ reign as World Champions or Pia Zadora’s acting career. (If that doesn’t show my age, nothing does.)

Let’s have some fun with this. Send in whatever geriatric humor you have; beating a dead horse is rarely as much fun as when you’re reminding some horse’s ass of his (her) mortality. For those of you who are younger than I, take heed; maybe you’ll learn something. For those of you who are older, take care of yourselves. There’s only one way I can catch you, and we’re having too much fun together for either of us to want that.

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