When I’m Sixty-Four

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Yosemite Valley, 2016

When The Beatles released Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band,  I was twelve. The second song on Side Two was When I’m Sixty-Four, written by Paul McCartney. Hearing the song in 1967, I mean, even my parents weren’t sixty-four. Sixty-four was old!

Today is my sixty-fourth birthday, and, funnily enough, I don’t feel sixty-four. Maybe it’s more fair to say that I never knew what sixty-four was going to feel like, and I guess I still don’t. It’s not like I haven’t gotten older—I’m dealing with some arthritis in my hips, and I’ve collected some wrinkles and scars over the years. But I don’t feel like the singer in When I’m Sixty-Four either.

On the other hand, when my doctor says something along the lines of “You know, John, as we get older,” I don’t bristle as much as I used to. The first time I got the “as we get older” line from a doctor, I’d cracked a bone in my hand crashing my mountain bike on the slickrock of Moab, Utah. I didn’t need “as we get older” advice then. What I needed was to know if I was going to make my hand worse by continuing to mountain bike while my hand healed.

In many ways, I feel like I’m just getting the hang of things. That’s a sweeping statement that covers pretty much every part of my life, from physical activities to the mental/emotional/spiritual side of things. I am slower, and I’ve got this arthritis, but I feel good in my sixty-four year-old self. I suppose I’m having the journey spelled out by C.P. Cavaly in Ithaka, one of my favorite poems. Here’s the part of the poem I mean:

Have Ithaka always in your mind.
Your arrival there is what you are destined for.
But don’t in the least hurry the journey.
Better it last for years,
so that when you reach the island you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to give you wealth.
Ithaka gave you a splendid journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She hasn’t anything else to give you.

(The rest of the poem is here.)

On my sixty-fourth birthday, I feel like I’m just getting started. We’re not in charge of what life sends our way, but we’re in charge of how we respond. Here’s to the rest of the journey, and I wish you well on yours.

When I’m Sixty-Four, officially by John Lennon and Paul McCartney (although actually just by Paul McCartney)

When I get older
Losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a Valentine?
Birthday greetings bottle of wine?

If I’d been out
Till quarter to three
Would you lock the door?
Will you still need me
Will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four?

You’ll be older too
And if you say the word
I could stay with you

I could be handy
Mending a fuse
When your lights have gone
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride

Doing the garden
Digging the weeds
Who could ask for more?
Will you still need me
Will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four?

Every summer we can rent a cottage
In the Isle of Wight if it’s not too dear
We shall scrimp and save (we shall scrimp and save)
Grandchildren on your knee
Vera, Chuck, and Dave

Send me a postcard
Drop me a line
Stating point of view
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely wasting away

Give me your answer
Fill in a form
Mine for evermore
Will you still need me
Will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four?

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