Who’s the wise guy that put all of these candles on my cake?
It’s the steady cry that calls out from the mouths of Boomers every day.
For those of us American “post war” babies who were born between 1946 to 1964 into what was to forever more be known as the Baby Boomer generation… The numbers are alarming.
78 million of us, qualifying for Social Security in record numbers.
Get this… 7,000 Boomers a day are turning 65!
Slow down, we’re dealing with 60 here… part of the rest of the crew falling somewhere in-between retirement and just feeling a whole lot older all of a sudden… especially with a small birthday cake fully emblazoned in front of you looking like a brush fire in an empty city lot.
We Baby Boomers entered adulthood in the 1960s and 1970s as Pete Townsend and The Who recorded a tune called "My Generation" in which one of the featured lines was, "Hope I die before I get old." Needless to say, as all Boomers have passed the road sign of 40, then 50 and now claiming 60…perspectives have changed.
If 1952 is your year of birth… it’s your time to step up and join the 3.75 million Boomers making the double-digit birthday to 60 this year… Actually… jumping on the Senior Boomer Bandwagon started back in 2006. Yes, Bunky the dreaded Six-Oh is staring you in the face… and to a lot of the former “love child, peace lovin,’ hippie, groovy cats of the 60’s,” we are discovering that we are now twice the age of the person that we were led to believe that we should never trust!
You do recall the phrase, never trust anyone over 30, right?
The saying is attributed to Jack Weinberg, an activist at Berkeley, CA, during the ’60s. His actual statement in 1964 was: We have a saying in the movement that we don’t trust anybody over 30. It was also made re-famous by Jerry Rubin, one of the infamous defendants in the Chicago 7 trial.
Wait a minute here… does this mean Mickey Mouse… our happy-go-lucky pal of our childhood, aka our “misspent youth” who has thrilled the kids and their kids too can’t be trusted?
I hate to break it to you, but M-I-C-K-E-Y is the octogenarian club… in other words… he in his 80’s! (83 to be precise)… so he’s out of the picture for sure.
OK… get a grip… being in your 50’s was kind of cool… It’s a status decade when the career is chugging along… you’re feeling good, the health club membership seems to be paying dividends… no need to color your hair… a little grey makes you look kind of grown up… even though you’re still a Dead Head under that corporate suit.
But as 60 reared its ugly head, you begin making some sobering realizations… not the least of which is… you simply don’t look as good naked as you used to!
It starts there and creeps into the rest of your life when simple math tells you that you are just 10 years away from 70… 15 years away from 75… and suddenly the bucket list starts waking you up in the middle of the night.
“I used to be something, you know,” you blurt out to a stranger for no apparent reason. I used to be able to catch the eye of a pretty young woman… now, after a conversation with a fair young lady she calls you, “sir,” and the anvil of reality drops squarely on your head, like the Roadrunner cartoon. Please tell me you remember that guy?
Time is passing, my friend… or, as the old Inner Sanctum radio show used to say… It… is… later… than… you… think!
Wait a minute here… I’m the same guy who rocked out to Hendrix. Heck, I knew people who went to Woodstock… I saw the 1968 Democratic Convention from an eyewitness view on Michigan Avenue… standing in front of the Conrad Hilton Hotel when it all “hit the fan.”
We are the Dudes and Dudettes for heaven’s sake!
We are the children of the ‘60's. We were the flower children… we invented tie dyed t-shirts, bandanas and… ah, yes…free love, in the Summer of Love in ‘69.
Hey… The Stones, Elvis, Bob Dylan and certainly, the Beatles were our stars. They are the true soundtracks to our lives.
I remember hearing the sirens go off when the Mayor Richard “J” Daley told Fire Commissioner Quinn to sound the fire alarms when the White Sox beat the Cleveland Indians (on the road, I might add, to earn their way into the 1959 World Series.)
I can easily flashback to Riverview on a school trip to jump on the Bobs or to “laugh my troubles away” in the Fun House or the Shoot the Chutes at Western and Belmont.
The snowstorm of January of ’67 is a vivid memory. So is riding on an electric line bus. Now, that’s not ancient history, is it?
While the memory chip is still functioning, I keep reaching into the bag of yesteryear. I remember waking up to Wally Phillips on WGN to hear about the McCormick Place Fire… And I’ll never forget the night of the first Draft Lottery. July 19th came up as number 227. If you were involved, you know exactly what that meant.
We were there. We were young and innocent, and full of dreams…
It was the time of Viet Nam and the fateful night of the Nixon resignation.
The flashbacks are coming at you like cheap strobe light…
JFK, MLK, RFK. We remember how they died… but more importantly, we had the privilege of watching them as they lived.
All right… feeling better? That pressure on my chest is not the “big one”… at least not yet! Come to think of it, I’d better schedule that colonoscopy, just to be safe.
The cold sweat starts again. Sixty? Yikes! That’s the age I will always think of my grandparents as being. “Gramps is sixty-something”
What’s happening here? You stand dumbfounded in front of a rather large cake, whose size is necessary if but for one reason… to accommodate all of those stinkin’ candles. 1 would have been OK with maybe six candles… one for each decade. But somehow, the number… no, the sheer volume of the number 60… is what gives one pause.
I’ve heard the jokes… like, “now, it takes me all night to do what I used to do all night!” If that’s so funny, why am I not laughing my sagging butt off? Why am I not laughing, you ask? Because, at 60… you have to conserve your energy.
Then, like a wave of sudden nausea, here come the questions again.
Have I done everything all wrong?
Am I running out of time to fix what I screwed up?
Did my six decades on the planet actually make a difference?
How come I seem to have so many questions and no answers?
I don’t know.
Pause for long sigh…
I was thinking about it the other day. You know, I’m not sure I ever really had a mid-life crisis. Maybe I deserve one? Or, maybe that’s just what I need to snap me out of the malaise?
Could be… because like most of my contemporaries, I never recognized or perhaps, failed to actually acknowledge the fact that I was, indeed in mid-life. Like many instances that have passed me by, I guess I never had a clue
So, if the life span says today’s 60 year old should probably live to age 82… that means I’m not at mid-life after all. Heck, I’m 19 years past the midway point and have only 22 years left to make the world a better place one day at a time.
And, the journey could go on a lot longer than that… I’m just using the actuarial numbers.
All right then… make a plan. Buy the Harley; take up scuba, yoga or whatever keeps your mind off the ticking clock. Life is for the living… enjoy the journey, the destination will come soon enough.
I’d stop and smell the roses, but I’m afraid that if I bend down, I might throw my back out. Get a grip pal!
Instead… throw a lampshade on your head and celebrate the generation in which we lived and loved. It’s OK to crank the tunes… bathe in some Pink Floyd or Zeppelin and get your grandkids to dig it with you… “man.”
It’s our party! “Cry if you want to,” fellow Boomer.
I’m just hoping that when the decision was made on what present you were going to buy for yourself for the big birthday… and the decision came down to spending money a new drum set or a hair removal procedure for your back… I hope that you chose to make some joyful noise? You’ve earned it! Grab your sticks!
Get over yourself…
Have your little “woe is me” session… then, blow your nose… wipe away the tears, take a deep breath… and do everybody within 5 feet of the cake a big favor… blow out those 60 candles before the fire truck arrives… and Party On Garth!
And… for everybody’s sake…
Please! Keep your clothes on.