A Pirate Looks at 40 – part 1


Ol’ Jimmy B got this one right. One week from today, at 6:19 EST,  I will mark my 40th trip around Sol. Turning forty brings its own peculiar madness. The wild idealism of the 20s are a distant memory. Even the guarded optimism of the 30s has begun to fade. All that remains is a long, slow decline into the senescence and decay of middle — then old — age.

Lately, I’ve begun to realize, to quote old Job, “That which I greatly feared has come upon me.” I’ve reached the halfway point of my traditional fourscore of years. If family history is any indication, and most doctors I’ve spoken to say it is, I’ve got between 35 and 38 years left before I go to meet my Maker. If I follow the path laid out by Daddy’s side of the family, I’ll put off this mortal coil as the result of a massive heart attack; whereas Mama’s side points me more towards death from complications from diabetes. I’m not being fatalistic; I’m just facing reality. Papa Wham had five brothers. Four of them, and Papa as well, died of heart attacks of one stripe or another by the age of 78. Daddy had his first mild attack ten years ago. You don’t outrun genetics.

On the other hand, I watched a favorite great-uncle suffer with late term diabetes and he died an inch at a time. First a toe, then a foot, then a leg. All things being the same, I’d just as soon go with the heart attack. So far, I’ve managed to hold on to all the parts I came into the world with, one set of wisdom teeth excepted, and I’d like to leave just the same way. Of course, if I’d known I was going to live this long, I’d certainly have taken better care of myself.

I realize that sounds strange because most people don’t consider forty as old, except for teenagers and they don’t yet realize just how much youth IS wasted on the young. The fact remains that I never made any plans for this stage in my life because I truly had no intention of REACHING this stage of my life. I planned to be dead long before now!

I had a few issues in my tweens and teens and the simple sadness of being completely misinterpreted by my favorite people weighed so heavily on me that I sought out deliberately risky behaviors. I won’t go into gory details but I took chances in cars, on motorcycles, and with bad, dangerous people that I never should have. I became WAY too friendly with my favorite uncles — Jack, Jim, Jose’, Evan, and Pierre. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was self-medicating a condition I didn’t know I had; one that several people around me STILL refuse to believe I wrestle with.

The long and the short of it is I always figured I’d miss a curve or piss off the wrong person one too many times and that’d be the end of me and, to be quite frank, I was just fine with that. You know, it was that whole “Live fast, die young and leave a good looking corpse” mentality. I wasn’t really thinking about anyone else’s feelings at the time. I just knew something wasn’t right; I couldn’t reason out what was wrong; most people thought I was making things up; I felt more and more out of sorts, so I just started hoping I’d meet my end in some ball of flaming blaze of glory just like my middle namesake did. After all, that’s how all the Hollywood divas and princes got famous, isn’t it? Of course, the fact that I’m writing this post should be some indication of how well that particular unplanned plan worked itself out.

Ah, sweet old teen angst. Gotta love it. It’s cute and somewhat expected among teenagers. That’s why each generation has had its greasers, hippies, stoners, emos, goths, etc. Most of those cats grow out of it though and go on to become some wildly successful businessmen or professional women.

Apparently, I missed that memo.

So here I am. One week from forty years old and still trying to figure out the angle on life just as hard as I was when I was sixteen. I just don’t have as much company as I used to. I don’t consider myself as much a Peter Pan as maybe his older, less successful sibling, Southern Homes Generic complete with oil floating on top. By my count, I’ve started over four times. Pretty much wiped the slate as clean as possible and started over with new looks, new acquaintances, new speech patterns. Unfortunately, I kept the same old me! Still, all this starting over and angst driven hand wringing and hair pulling has taught me one lesson LDHS55, Greenville Tec, Clemson, and USC all failed to do . . .

I’m getting too old for this crap!

Love y’all and hope everyone has a safe and joyous New Year’s Celebration! Look for more Pirate posts this week as I reflect on what was, what is, and what is to come! Keep those feet clean . . . and deuces, y’all.

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