One of my favorite songs to perform is A Pirate Looks at 40. It’s about a guy in Key West who never really found his calling in his lifetime. Eventually, his biggest wish came true, for when he died he was cremated and was kept on top of the cash register at his favorite bar.
When I was much younger, I used to introduce the song this way. I would tell everyone that the song was about my buddy Waterrat and I. He was the way over 40 part of our band and I was the way under 40 part. If you averaged us together, we’d be 40.
Bobby was about 55 then. I was 25 or so.
Today – yes today – I am now officially at pirate looking at 60.
My wife asked me what I’d like to do today to mark this special occasion. I have yet to give her an answer, even though it’s now morning.
I’m not sure I have an answer. I mean, I’m 60. I’m not quite sure how that happened. The days drift by and suddenly you’re at an age that ends with a zero, which is supposed to have some significance compared to the day before or even the year before when your age ended in a nine.
So, here I sit, pondering my mortality. Actually, I’m watching a TV show as I write this. I pondered my mortality for much of the past month, convinced alternately that I had esophageal cancer and that my liver was finally giving out on me.
I’m still not sure about the former. Kat says it’s just heartburn. But my overly creative mind likes to work overtime anyway. This was certainly the case Saturday.
Bright and early I awoke to use the restroom in our hotel. As I brushed my hair, I thought my skin looked a little yellow. My pupils were a light yellow, too. I’ve been yellow before – when I was 18 – so I know what jaundice looks like.
Being my usual paranoid self, I woke Kat up so she could look at my eyes. She took me to the window. No yellow, she said.
It turns out that the wallpaper in the bathroom and the lights they used made everyone and every thing look a little jaundiced. So much for my momentary mortality.
Today, I’m no longer thinking about my demise. Nothing magical happened overnight. I turned 60 somewhere after the stroke of midnight. Well, technically I don’t turn 60 until 6:30 or so tonight. My mother never could remember when I was actually born. I was number four out of the shoot and those childhood milestones aren’t as important the fourth time around.
So, what have I discovered about turning 60? Well, it doesn’t feel any different than 59 felt, or 55 for that matter. I confess that I don’t remember the last time the oldometer clicked over to a zero. I was in Florida at the time and turning 50 doesn’t even register a vague memory.
But I can tell you that how I am is very different. Where I was a trainwreck in the years between 50 and 55, lost after a broken heart and stuck in a state where I didn’t belong, I am terrific now.
Not that every day is gloriously carefree. I creak and ache more than I used to. Age is slowly creeping in here and there. But my brain still thinks it’s in its 20s, so I am still writing checks I probably can’t cash in the morning.
Still, I am at peace for the most part these days. Much of the drama that permeated my very existence has fallen by the wayside. I don’t feel any need to please anyone else at the expense of my own happiness. I don’t really care what others think of me. I don’t have to sell my soul for my profession. I am loved deeply by a great woman and wonderful friends. I have a roof over my head, my bills are mostly paid, I have food in my tummy, most of my health and almost all of my body parts.
I have never had my body cut open to fix something yet. I’ve been fortunate in that part. My teeth have always been crap. I guess that’s a trade-off for never needing major surgery elsewhere.
In short, life is pretty damned good. I deserve it, too. I’ve had some real hardships over the years. I’ve made some classically bad errors in judgment. I have chosen my friends unwisely at times. I fell in love with the devil incarnate at one time.
I overcame them all. Life didn’t beat me. Every time I got back up, dusted myself off and started all over again. I think I deserve a little respite now and then. The hard work paid off.
It’s hard to come to terms sometimes with the fact that your biggest decisions have been your worst. The powers that be keep trying to give you hints that you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, that you’re no longer even swimming upstream against the tide, but drowning.
It’s just part of the journey, I guess. Thankfully, the older I get the more I realize that I know less and less. When I was younger, I thought I knew it all. Perhaps we all do. But these days, I’ve come to realize that I only know a lot about a little, and very little about a lot.
And I found out that peace is one of the rarest commodities on earth. It’s very precious. I wish I had had the balls to be more courageous in my younger days, more willing to articulate and stick to boundaries so that I wouldn’t let others use and abuse me. I’ve found that while far from perfect, I am a pretty good guy who’s pretty good with his life and the way it’s all panning out.
I’ve also come to realize that age is just a made up number. I turned 60 because the earth spins once around the sun once every 365 days. If I was on Mars right now, I’d only be 32 years old by the same measure.
Hey, wait! That sounds good to me. The next time someone asks me if I’m from Mars or something, I’m going to say “yes!”
That way I’ll still be that pirate looking at 40 instead of 60.
In the Emerald City, firemen on standby as I blow out this wildfire of candles,