Tuesday, December 11, 2007

On Turning 65

Yes that is me, some 64 years ago.

Ever since I've received statements from Social Security or a retirement account I have seen the ominous words “you are eligible to retire December, 2007…” etc. When I first saw those words they seemed to belong to someone else, perhaps another person in the future? I never thought about retirement, turning 65, my future health, etc. as I simply loved working and never thought it would end. But, before I realized it, some aspects of my health deteriorated, work ended, and this week I turn 65.

I had thought 50 was a milestone but nothing really changes at 50 other than your age. There are no other markers such as the onslaught of statements from Social Security, Medicare and the endless solicitations for supplemental health insurance, reminding you, reminding you…ad infinitium.

Ann is planning a birthday party for me at our home with friends and relatives. While I look forward to that, the high point will be a musicale I will give, accompanying my friend, Kate, who sings pieces from the Great American Songbook, songs I love. I occasionally accompany her on the piano at benefit concerts in the Palm Beach area. Our brief selection for the party is:

They Say It’s Wonderful by Irving Berlin
So Far by Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers
I Won’t Send Roses by Jerry Herman
Anyone Can Whistle by Stephen Sondheim
Thanks for the Memory by Robin and Rainger.

I’ll conclude with two solos, both for my wife, Ann (pictured with me at Looking Glass Falls, NC), without whom I would have never made it to my 65th birthday:

I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face by Lerner and Loewe
and Annie’s Waltz, which I wrote when I first met her. (Someday, when I figure out how to put a sound track on this blog, I’ll post a recording.)

At 50 one is forward looking, and at the prime of one’s life. At 65 one seems to be drawn back into the past. While I am not a naturally gifted pianist, I work at it and it is an important part of my future. Moving forward in some creative endeavor, I think, is the best anti-aging tonic. The little musical selection above has some my favorite artists, especially Richard Rodgers and Stephen Sondheim. I will give you “my take” on the Great American Songbook genre at a later date.

When I turned 50 I wrote a poem that now seems more apt for turning 65 so I incorporate it below. It still expresses my feelings:


Faceless faces wander through his past:
at crowded airports and baseball games;
at conventions and business meetings,
lips, teeth and tongues articulating
understandings and arrangements.

And the faces marching in the
Memorial Day parade,
year after year after year.

Numbers of his life parading past,
some fractional and unmemorable
and others round and etched by
calendars marking milestones.

Friends from childhood
up and down the city street
and now in the suburbs or lost
elsewhere in the cosmos.

Adult friends too,
gradually fall away into the past,
documented by photographs in
albums no one ever sees.

His children move away into distant galaxies
with gravitational forces not
understood by him.

Do they carry his genetic message
to be read in another time,
across light years connecting the past and the future?

The random culmination of today
connected by geocentric lines
to all he has ever known,
translucent as a snowflake
falling to the ground,
this one life.