Johnson City Press Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Out of My Head

‘Broken toys’ take on 60 with a laugh

April 29th, 2013 8:57 am by Jan Hearne

My friend, Beth, emailed today saying she needed time to ease in to her 60th birthday, which comes up Saturday. I responded by saying turning 60 wasn’t bad, but being 60 is weird.
There’s this disconnect between the number and how you feel inside. At my core, I am 20 or 30, sometimes 18. It depends. When the subject of age comes up or when I have to check one of those age boxes on a questionnaire, I have to stop and think. Now, I’m 42, no, wait, I’m 60. Really?
It’s a number, I know, and 60 is the new 40, they say, though I don’t believe it for a minute.
At 60, the world gets away from you a little bit. You start to think about the way things “used to be,” and you know you’re not 20 anymore.
As a young man in 1977, the great Jesse Winchester wrote these lyrics:

One day I’ll be old gray grandpa
All the pretty girls will call me “sir,”
Now, where they’re asking me how things are
Soon they’ll ask me how things were

I interviewed him several years ago, and we talked about the upcoming birth of his grandchild. I mentioned these lyrics and he laughed. “There’s all kinds of irony in that song,” he said.
There’s all kinds of irony in being 60. At 20, listening to my parents and their friends, I thought, “If I ever say or do that, just shoot me.” Well, I’m saying and doing the same things.
When we’re not talking about our various ailments, my friends and I relive the past. There is one huge, blessed difference between our conversations and our parents: Most of the time we are laughing.
“We’re broken toys,” friend Helen said recently as a group of us ran through the physical challenges we’ve met. The list included a brain tumor, a stroke, cancer, heart ailments, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, bunions (which, we have found out, are a very big deal) and various deteriorating/replaced joints.
We shake our heads in wonder. How did we get here so darned fast? And why do we find it so funny? It’s almost as if we’re trying old age on for size, and, if we don’t like it, we can exchange it for something that suits us better.
Or perhaps, we’re laughing at our younger selves who thought we’d never get old, or die. The joke is on us, and we do see the humor in it.
We “broken toys” go back more than 30 years (some, though not I, go back to college or earlier). If, at one of those crazy parties, someone had told us all we would suffer and somehow endure, we would have run screaming from the room.
Luckily 60 happens one day at a time.
Just like 30 amazingly became 31, 60 becomes 61. One of the wildest of the young bunch recently crossed that threshold.
He posted on Facebook: “You know ... thinking back to when I was 22 years old — I thought all 61-year-olds were over-the-hill, sold out, demented and half-crippled, age-spotted (naughty word) ... I was right.”
I marveled that he’s made it this far, his dark sense of humor firmly in tact.
Then I laughed.

Jan Hearne is the Press Tempo editor. Reach her at jhearne@johnsoncitypress.com.

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