Columns » Bob Lancaster

Persons of age

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W.J. Clinton is apprehensive about turning 60, and he should be apprehensive about it.

It’s not all over at 60 but the worthwhile part is.

At 60 you don’t know what might lie ahead but you damn sure know what doesn’t.

At 60 things begin to hurt that you didn’t even know you had, and nobody wants to hear about it, any more than you want to hear about theirs.

You come to find yourself surrounded by horrible creams and pastes and additives and compounds and stop-leaks and innards-cleansers, and by frightful disgusting devices that you aren’t even sure what they do. Where does all this stuff come from?

The fun carcass parts are the first to go, or they become so operationally erratic, fuses blowing and tires going flat, that you’re never quite sure it’ll be worth the effort.

Nether parts avenge themselves most cruelly, and unspeakably. Nails, digits, growths, appendages, cavities, literal wild hairs all become a kind of serial accusation.

After 60, you startle yourself with yips and yows that geyser up from your depths and have a will and a life of their own. These are audible across crowded rooms. They will stop a concerto or a sermon. Shooting pains might cause them, or sudden regrets, or old despairs unaccountably recurring. Or they might be mystery emissions, inexplicable.

There was a country song not long ago that said, “I’m not as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.” A 60-year-old didn’t write that. The 60-year-old would’ve written, “Just leave me the hell alone, is that so hard?”

Holding up lines at supermarkets and cafeterias — often this involves coupons, or counting out exact change — becomes irresistible at 60. You know how annoying that has been all these years, when you were on the scowling, muttering, harrumphing end, but it can’t be helped. Turn 60 and holding up lines becomes like a duty. It’s like if you don’t do it there’s a swell fraternity somewhere that won’t let you in if they hear you’ve been going smoothly with the flow.

Something else that becomes irresistible is ear-canal housecleaning with whatever foreign object happens to be handy.

Once you’re 60, nobody raves anymore about your promise. Nobody says you can do anything you set your mind to. If once upon a time the world was your oyster, custody of the oyster by 60 has passed on. Once you’re 60, you’re the only one who believes it’s still safe for you to drive a car. You are assumed to be uninterested any longer in controlling the remote.

Yes, there are 60-year-olds who do things, but they’re things that 60-year-old people do, and not a one of them amounts to a hill of beans. They’re feats that occur on the Senior Tour. Or in the Oldtimers Game. They’re accomplishments superintended by an activities chairman.

Even if they’re the same things you’ve always done, when you turn 60 they become puttering. Youngsters don’t putter; middle-age people don’t putter; but at 60 whatever you do becomes puttering, and it remains puttering until it becomes doddering. Doddering, of course, is just before rigor mortis. Puttering beats doddering but might near anything beats doddering, and with the advent of puttering comes the dismaying awareness of how swiftly time marches on.

That’s the bad news about becoming a “person of age,” as George Carlin refers to us. I would move on at this point to the good news, if there were any. There’s not.

It was not intended that human beings suffer these age-related indignities. Nature designed our vitals to last just long enough for us to pass along the DNA, and it assumed we’d have the decency then to get on out of the way. Early man geezered out at 30 — 40 was unheard of — and his spryer kin were not unsympathetic in leaving him behind to draw off the carnivores stalking the clan. He was fortunate and knew it and went willingly. It meant his molars wouldn’t rot, nor his joins seize up with the rheumatiz; he would be supper before he was obliged to philosophize, to seek cosmological justification for having taken up the space.

Genesis tells a different story, but I don’t think those ancients reckoned time the same way. Adam supposedly lived 900 years but if that’s not a mistranslation it’s surely ironical. Cast out in virtual infancy and condemned to a life of toil thereafter, he had to endure nine crappy centuries of life without TV or sporting events or even board games?

In addition to the universal sexagesimal razzings, Mr. Clinton finds himself dogpiled by these: He can’t be president again ever; he has a Secret Service detail velcroed to all four sides of him for the duration; and this harridan Ann Coulter is going around telling people he’s gay.

Maybe she meant he was gay the same way Toni Morison meant he was black. But who knows?

Typical of a 60-year-old, he got a wrinkled band for the birthday bash — the one with the sideman, age 62, who recently cracked his skull when he nodded off, as geezer sidemen will, and fell from his perch halfway up a coconut tree.


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