Sunday, March 19, 2006

Who I am

Next year in August, I will be 60. For years, entering your sixth decade was my definition of passing through the gateway to the golden years. Now that I am almost there, sixty seems no more than late middle age.

I feel not much different than I did at fifty, or forty, or for that matter, thirty. I still have a soft spot for outlaws. I still keep my car radio cranked on high, loving the guitar-drenched, rough-trade rock and roll of George Thorogood and ZZ Top. I still thrill to the throaty roar of a Harley. I still appreciate rare steak, real butter and strong coffee. I still admire the clever wariness of coyotes and root for them against their hunters. I still feel especial loyalty to my Vietnam vets, both those who overcame the war and those who were overcome by it.

At going on sixty, I still love Lilac-scented spring mornings and scarlet cardinals on snow-covered pine boughs. I still love chocolate chip cookies warm from the oven. I still love horses running and ocean waves lapping onto sand and big trees. I still get excited when I enter into the flashing lights and raucous noise of a casino. I still become mesmerized by the forward momentum of seeing an endless highway ahead of me, whether it is running through the live oak-studded pastures of Alabama, the red table-top mountains of Arizona or the rolling woods of Arkansas.

I still enjoy handsome men, although these days my idea of handsome is more likely to include the wrinkles and pot bellies or bald heads of men who've earned those things fighting wars or working in factories or staying up all night with sick babies, than the sleekness of untested youth.

I've found that as you grow older and your children reach a stage where you can lean on them more and more for support, your parents reach a stage where they lean on you more and more for support.

I've discovered that when you are young, pain has a cause - you twist your ankle, you sprain your wrist - but when you are older, pain comes for no reason at all. Suddenly, your knee aches or a bolt of agony shoots through your shoulder. You simply grit your teeth and soldier on.

I've learned that at almost sixty, the body may be warning that fall is coming, but the mind continues to believe in spring.