I turned 50 years old last month. I knew I wanted to write about it but, honestly, it’s taken me a while to process the fact I’ve ridden this rock around the Sun fifty times. I guess many people could say this, but if you had known me in my teenage and early twenties years you’d probably be surprised I made it this far. Up until 25 I didn’t lead a lifestyle conducive to growing old. I drank as much as I could in high school and swam in bourbon at college. Of course, you can’t be young and drunk without participating in many somewhat sketchy activities so I had some close scrapes along the way. Then there was the underlying reason I was acting out so. I was struggling with undiagnosed anxiety, depression, and borderline personality disorder. Looking back, I guess it’s a wonder I managed as well as I did.
I met Budge when I was 25 though and on the cusp of turning my life around. She help complete the turn and she’s been helping me along for half my life now. I wish I could say it’s been all pixie dust and unicorns farting rainbows, but it hasn’t. Old dragons returned and got much worse after a time, but Budge has held my hand through it all. She says she always will.
But what of 50? How do I feel hitting the half-century mark? Physically? Not so good. Age has uncovered the physical consequences of doing some dumb stuff while I have plenty of normal wear and tear to boot. It’s like a man once said, “It ain’t the make of the car as much as it is the mileage.” I have to say this vehicle has not been garage kept either. My knees hurt a considerable bit. I know much of that pain is from working double hard to carry my fat bottom around for all these years. Except for about three years in my teens, I’ve never been accused of being svelte and my knees remind me of that now. Actually, I could be weeks from death and I wouldn’t know it. I haven’t seen a doctor since 2015. I should probably be on cholesterol and blood pressure meds at least and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if blood work showed me to be borderline diabetic or worse. It drives Budge crazy, but right now I prefer denial to cold, clinical facts.
Mentally I don’t feel so bad. I have the slight forgetfulness that comes as we get older. I’ve made two and sometimes three trips to a room to remember what it is I’m here for, but overall I have pretty good recall. I know all the important dates and the relevant information about my marriage – you know, first date, what I was wearing when we met, all the important stuff that will get a husband in hot water if he forgets. I don’t think I’ll be fulfilling my dream of going on Jeopardy! any time in the future now though. I still know the answers but my reflexes might not hold up against the younger generation. My mind has been my greatest friend and worst enemy in my life but it’s still mostly intact and I can’t be thankful enough for that. If dementia is in my future at least I’ve made it by the “early onset” point. I hope I’m spared that fate though because, as many things as I’d like to forget in my life, I can’t imagine much worse than forgetting my friends and loved ones. It’s one of my many greatest fears.
So what do I think about turning 50? Mostly I think I’m old. Now I know plenty of people who are over 50 and don’t seem touched by age. I’m not one of them. I’ve never been active much in my life and if you don’t use it, you lose it. I’m not one of these who is going to be competing in senior marathons or weightlifting competitions. I just feel settled. I’ve been home sitting on the shelf for all of my forties. I haven’t been in front of a class in over 15 years; haven’t been a librarian for ten. Maybe I should try to reinvent myself and do something different the second half of my life but I’ve been on the shelf so long I don’t really know where to start. I’ve heard people talk about late bloomers, so maybe I’m just an early flower dropper.
One thing I don’t feel is particularly wise. To me, 50 has always been the age a man starts being sought out for his opinion and advice on weighty matters. I don’t feel like I have much weighty experience. I can serve as an example of the wrong way to do many things with alcohol, pills, and especially money. I learned all those the hard way, and I would love to spare young people some of that heartache, but I don’t seem to have much of an audience. I think about Papa Wham. He was 50 when I was born and he’s probably the wisest man I’ve ever known. He did things though. He fought a war, ran his own business, and served as a church deacon several times. He had a deep well to draw from. Next to him, I feel like a puddle.
One thing I am more aware of now that I’m 50 is my own mortality. Men in my family don’t generally reach 80. It seems 74-77 is the sweet spot. Then a big heart attack comes to take them away. I know I’m a lot, lot closer to the finish line than I am the start. I wish I was leaving more of a legacy behind but leaving no children and getting out of the workforce early aren’t the best ways to ensure I’ll be fondly remembered.
So here I am at 50. I’ll have good company by year’s end since many of my friends turn 50 this year also. I’m just going to try looking ahead more than behind because that’s supposed to be where the good stuff is.
Love y’all, and keep your feet clean!