Friday, August 11, 2006

Now I’m 54

“Will you still need me?
Will you still feed me?
When I’m 64.”

– Sir Paul McCartney, 1967
When the “cute” Beatle inched one step closer to Social Security earlier this year, much was made of the lyrics he penned for the 1967 seminal album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” Sir Paul actually wrote that ditty years before and waited until the right moment for musical inclusion.
Do you think, in the mid-1960s, that McCartney actually gave serious thought to what he’d be doing in 2006? At the ripe OLD age of 64?
Do you think he knew that he would be worth billions, that he’d be getting divorced from his second (much younger) wife, worrying about a toddler he fathered with her, coming off yet another grueling tour of North America and facing the loss of almost a third of his net worth? Do you think he knew that two of his best friends would be dead well before their time and that he’d see men walk on the moon, people communicate on the phone from around the globe without a cord to connect or that commercial air travel could be conducted at supersonic speed?
Maybe; maybe not. It’s hard to say what kind of future he envisioned as he emerged from his teenage years. If he were like me, he would never have thought of any of those things.
Sir Paul turned 64 and today, I turn 54. Spare the black balloons, send the wait staff back to the kitchen (no singing at the table) and put away those candles. I don’t have the lung capacity to extinguish them with a single breath and, if ignited, they could activate all the smoke detectors in the joint. Anyhow, the cake would have to be sugar (hence, taste) free and that just isn’t right.
When I emerge from Women’s Hospital in Detroit, Mich. some 54 years ago, I just never thought I’d see this day; I had no concept of what 54 “years” meant in real time. Who does? Growing up, all I wanted to do was play first base for the Detroit Tigers. What happened to me in subsequent years was never (and could never have been) forecasted by me.
When I stepped off a Greyhound bus 30 years ago in Conroe, Texas, I never thought about getting married. After all, what female would agree (willingly) to spend their life with me? I was just trying to make sure I wasn’t going to get fired from my first job. I never envisioned having children because I was taught that part 2 required part 1 to happen.
And, no, I didn’t think I would be in the newspaper business for as long as I lasted, nor did I think I would retire due to health reasons at a reasonably “early” age. Retirement was for “old” people and now, “I be one.”
Presents? Do you mean the surprise gift of a new dog that my wife has been talking about for weeks? I’ll be sure to act properly shocked, astonished and delighted – count on it. Will my children call? Only if they’re not too busy, which is unlikely, but I’ll be 85 before a birthday card arrives in the mail (sorry, e-cards do not count).
Now that I have a firm membership grasp of my AARP card, there are some things I like to see in the future. First would be … the future. That will be up to me, my horde of doctors and God, I guess.
Second, I’d like to hold my grandchildren in my lap. I’d like to teach a grandson how to play baseball like Hank Greenberg (and be the first baseman I could never achieve). I’d like to see granddaughter paint like Amanda Dunbar of Allen, Texas (whom I profiled when she was just in high school but already a talent beyond compare).
I’d like to travel America in a big, all-encompassing RV and see all the national park sites and every professional baseball stadium – without worrying about gas costs or the calendar.
I hope to cook like Emeril, or meet Emeril, in one of his restaurants (in a fully-restored New Orleans). I’d like to see politics stop being about vanquishing your opponent like Genghis Khan and learning how to make government work. I’d like to people to actually listen – and consider – other ideas. I’d like to see a man (or woman) set foot on Mars … without worrying about the cookbook, “To Serve Man.”
I want to see my beloved Detroit Tigers do more than just play well this year. A little bit IS better than nada, but I want the whole enchilada – the World Series title.
I’d like to see my old friends at least one more time, perhaps as often as each of us can arrange, and make new ones along the rest of the way. I’d like people to be treated equal in all our eyes and believe that justice is a honorable concept worth defending.
Most of all, I’d like to see 55 … and beyond.
Starting with tomorrow. The day AFTER my birthday.
“Will you still need me?
“Will you still read me?
“Now I’m 54.”

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