On the Cusp of Turning Three Score

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I took a break from working on a magazine story a few afternoons ago to peruse a packet just received from the American Association of Retired Persons. Yup, I relented and joined AARP. For $16 a year, I figure the discounts will more than pay the price.

The cost to my ego is something else, however. I am not actually retired. I must stay busy writing, taking photographs and poking a few other irons in the fire. The rocking chair remains unoccupied. There are bills to pay.

I have steadily resisted the slow slide into geezerhood. The first time the ticket taker at the movie theater automatically assumed I qualified for the senior discount proved an outrage. That was five years ago. Until she told me to hush as the movie began, I fumed to my Beautiful Mystery Companion about the nerve of that cashier. Being wiser and Scottish, she was just happy for the price break. The next domino to fall was ordering the “senior” coffee at the McDonald’s drive-through. Once I figured out a cup of pretty good Joe costs only 53 cents — including tax — pride was swallowed, along with the coffee.

But I have long resisted AARP’s entreaties, which began when the organization figured out I had turned 50. I am still searching for the snitch who provided that information. A friend, who is several years older, warned against joining. He had signed up at 50 but then decided not to renew. Apparently there is only one way to leave AARP once you have joined. It is the same way gangsters leave the Mafia — feet first.

I am kidding, AARP people, so please no nasty emails. I joined of my own volition now that a decade has nearly passed, and untold printed supplications and emails have found their way into recycling or the digital trash can. Thus I went through the packet, peeled my membership card off its sticky backing and stuck it in my wallet — way back where it is not visible.

Through a bevy of outside parties, AARP offers motorcycle insurance, cell phone service, travel discounts and dental insurance. Pet health insurance is also available. I am not sure Rosie and Sam in dog years are old enough to qualify for AARP.


So, what prompted this sudden urge to join AARP and begin perusing the brochures? One of those round-number birthdays is imminent. On Aug. 23, I will turn 60.

There. I said it. I have been trying to wrap my head around this fact since, well, when I turned 59. How did this happen? I used to invariably be the youngest person in the newsroom, the youngest publisher in the company. Somewhere along the way, the years slipped up on me, and I became the old guy at the paper. That is one reason I left my last newspaper gig a few weeks ago — this sense that, as 60 beckoned, it was time to seek new adventures.

I Googled “famous people who are 60” to see who else has boarded the same cruise to Old Town. Not that I’m famous, but still. Actress Kim Basinger turns 62 in December. Dennis Quaid is 61. George Strait is 63. Lynda Carter, aka Wonder Woman, just turned 64. Richard Gere turns 66 at the end of this month.

All these famous people have something in common. They all look great! Of course, they ought to since they get paid to not frighten people by looking as if they recently rose from the crypt. Unless it’s a horror flick, of course. They have people… I have Burt’s Bees.

As for me, if I had to make a living on my looks I would be living in the back of my car.


So as the day approaches, and birthday wishes will be extended in person and through Facebook, I reflect. It has been a fascinating run thus far. I have been blessed far beyond what I ever imagined four-plus decades ago, when I joined the grown-up world. Turns out I am still trying to figure out what to be when I grow up. Or if I even need to “be” anything.

The thing is, I never quit plugging away. I can’t. I am just built to not stop writing, working, doing whatever. Thank goodness for that. It is probably a New England thing.

A 1975 N.H. license plate sits on my study’s fireplace mantel. I bought it at a yard sale while visiting my native state a couple decades ago, because it sports the mantra that raised me: Live Free or Die. That slogan lately has been co-opted by rednecks driving around with flags planted in the beds of their pickup trucks. A Stars and Bars flag on one corner, a “Live Free or Die” flag on the other.

That is a universe away from why I keep the plate on my mantel. We are free, remarkably free, to make or break our futures, to reinvent ourselves again and again. I feel free to explore other options, maybe someday move to cooler climes with my BMC. It would be nice to live somewhere oxygen is still present in the air during August. (I stole that line, but can’t remember whom to credit.) Possibly check out Ecuador. Or Colorado.

Life at 60 feels pretty darned good, all things considered. Plus, there are all those discounts. It’s hard to beat 53-cent coffee.


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1 Comment

  • Jonathan McDonald


    Way back when, you weren't the youngest publisher, I was. Let me know if you find a place with a good single malt for 53cents. Enjoy your seniority. I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up either. Jonathan

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