When younger and later in life as a married man with two young children, deep into my career and family, I thought that when a person turned seventy years of age they had matured to a point and would share their lessons of life with their loved ones. This didn’t happen. I assumed wrong. No one in my family did that.
My father lived until age 91, but started to decline in his late 80s, and during all those years of decline I waited and waited for him to sit me and my brother down to tell us all that he had learned in his nearly nine decades of living through good times and bad. I wanted to hear about the meaning of life, what was most important, how to be a good man …. but that was wishful thinking. On reflection this probably has more to do with my sense of lacking than of his.
Sitting around and hearing about his life in the way I imagined didn’t happen but that doesn’t mean to say I didn’t learn his view of the world and what mattered to him. He had imparted it to me by virtue of living with him. That’s the only way one really gets to know someone anyway; by living with them day after day, month after month, year after year. I learned that he looked forward and not back. He made his voice and point of view heard – often when it was not asked for. He believed strongly in perseverance, in not giving up. He strongly believed in living within one’s means. He said problems are good; if you didn’t have problems, you wouldn’t be alive. Save more, spend less. Don’t give in to immediate gratification; critically analyze the situation before acting. These were his truths; most of them are mine too.
Now I just turned seventy years of age and it made me think of what I might do if I turn eighty. And then I looked back and reflected on what I did when I turned sixty.
A decade ago, my wife and I flew out to Arizona to visit with friends Steve & Andrea whom I’ve known since I was twenty four years of age. Steve and I first met while living in a group home in Brookline, and while there discovered he was born barely a week before I was and we shared a lot in common. One thing in particular stands out about the two of us: we’ve both been told we’re immature. So we’ve kidded ourselves about it incessantly and point out incidents to each other that proves the point time and time again despite our advanced age. One time we decided that we were going to produce a new magazine called “Immature Man”. To further illustrate the point, I created for Steve a 60th birthday card mock up with a similar likeness to the TIME magazine’s “Man of the Year” cover; but in place of TIME at the top it said “Immature Man” and included a banner running on a diagonal with “Debut Issue” on it. It featured a full blown head shot of him 8 x 11. On the bottom right corner was his actual birthday date.
We know we’re not the only ones; so we are going to recruit other people who also qualify as immature, describe the attractions of being immature, and then invest in our publication, join our staff and make “Immature Man” a success. We’ve done our media research. There is no other magazine like it covering the joys and attractions of being immature.
So now I’m seventy. Though some might think most of the best years have passed, I don’t think so. I finally know now who I am and that I don’t need anyone to tell me how to live my life or what to do about it. I’m not a know-it- all; far from it. I can still listen and learn. But it’s my life to live as best as I can with an eye towards the rest of the world too. (I am fully vaccinated, wear a mask, keep my distance from others. I follow the science and live within the law).
I have an agenda that I would like to follow, but I don’t know how long I have on earth to pursue it. The length of my time on earth is hardly in my own hands of course, but some things are. I acknowledge that truth, accept it and try to live in the present while planning for a future. I know I am going to die and so hope to continue a path of self-improvement with respect to how I live and how I treat other people until I do.
The things I’m doing now I hope to continue going forward: continuing to do some good in the world. Taking care of myself while also doing something about the threats to our democracy and planet. I want to be mobile as much as possible, as long as possible. It’s when I’m physically active I feel best.
What will the future hold? The coming years of this decade will have a lot to do with that.
The planet is burning up, and the world hasn’t really accepted it or at least not enough to act with urgency. Fossil fuel companies are lining up to fight the truth that burning fossil fuels kills. Public health disasters loom as the climate changes.
We seniors (even immature seniors) and most seventy year olds alike will be gone before the apocalypse occurs in earnest. The Climate Clock is ticking and no one will escape it. I see value in using one’s time well, to live as best as possible – but within one’s means – for one’s own good and for those younger too. I believe we can do something about the climate crisis at the grassroots and local level, educate ourselves and others through our own behavior, voice and our vote. All is not lost; in fact, now’s the time to act.