My first 50th birthday card to arrive came from AARP: a membership card to join the golden senior years. Wow! Now Linda and I can enjoy the economy of Early-Bird Special dinners and senior prices on activities. Next winter we can ice-skate for only $6 each at the Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. I can hardly wait to go vacationing with Emily, Sue, and Charlie, and ask for “5 seniors” for tickets to some museum or show. This is great. Of course, my favorite phrase is the British OAP discounts for “Old Age Pensioners”. Now, let’s work on that retirement thing…
But, work is still part of life. My birthday falls on a Friday. The other day, I had a client ask for the “latest” appointment time I had on that Friday (he did not know that this was my birthday). I looked at my schedule… “How is 9:30 a.m…. That is my latest and only appoitment time.” I know that he prefers to come at 5 p.m., so I got out the shoehorn and fit him in. What the heck. I have clients scheduled through lunch, anyway. My job is to keep everyone satisfied. And, Linda & I will be going to the Shakespeare Theatre Saturday (a review will likely follow), so the exact day for celebration is not that important. But, by Saturday, I get senior discounts!
In these 50 years, I have enjoyed or endured several life-times. I grew up in oblivion of our troubled world, playing in a suburban landscape, and traveling to such wonderful places as Japan, where I celebrated my 8th birthday, and Europe. I had the privilege of growing up with parents who made promises and kept them. How many parents would follow through on their promise that “when you are 13 you will be old enough to have a monkey” and then actually get one when I reminded them that I was 13 and old enough to have a monkey! We could fast-forward through junior high and high school, except for my discovery of theatre. So, lets move on to that.
I stepped into adulthood in Seattle, thinking that I was going up the stairs of ambition, only to find that I fell into the basement of misjudgment, disappointment, and despair. Those who know the story do not need to be reminded; those of you who do not can live without details of youthful error. Theatre and music pulled me through this era, and I arranged for comp tickets to the Seattle Symphony to hear Dvorak’s New World symphony for my 20th birthday (I was selling season tickets for the symphony that year). But, I realized that working in the paying jobs in theatre (not on stage) meant working 6 1/2 days per week for about $1.80 per hour. This was also the time when I began to form a soundtrack for my narrative. My friend, Christian, directed me to the cut out bin at the student book store. I came home with Glen Miller, In The Mood, Fats Waller, Ain’t Misbehaving, and Howling Wolf, Little Red Rooster. Swing to stride to blues. But, now I needed some direction, and sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll did not appeal much to me.
Spending some time with my Aunt Barbara introduced me to what has become my profession, as well as a role model whom I admire to this day. Studying occupational therapy brought me back to San Jose for a few years, and a few more mistakes. We call them “prior administrations” now. I graduated and headed off for adventure on the east coast. My years in NYC were as extreme as the city. My soundtrack expanded with all that jazz, Miles Davis, Lionel Hamptom, Dorothy Donogan, and discovering the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. I spent more time off-broadway than seeking the glitz of the expensive ticket seats. I pursued my masters degree and decided that a PhD did not really get me much more than a fatter head than I already had. But, these years were haunted with the loneliness which comes with the anonymity of living with millions of people.
But at the bar at a friend’s husband’s retirement party from a military career I met my life’s companion. Music, theatre, and museums dominated our conversations, while the rest of the crowd rambled about their houses, children, and bosses. The music that evening was classic country, from my future friends (Linda’s already) Melinda and Drew. Lust, money, children, and fear of loneliness sustain many relationships. I was looking for someone who enjoyed common interests and wanted to grow old together. And, now we are seniors, according to AARP.
But, the adventures did not stop. We walked, bicycled, and danced through the D. C. area activities, while constructing our cabin in the woods. Eventually, heavy handed bosses would lead both of us to the conclusion that John Prine was right, Blow up your T. V./ throw away your paper/ Go to the country/ build you a home… So, here we sit on our side of the mountain, watching the sun rise and set, the trees grow, and the dogs romp about the yard, with the cats prowling the driveway, and goats complaining about the grain rations. Linda grows vegetables and I cut wood. I start my senior years with blogging. And, the adventures will continue as we will set out on our first “RV trip” in May (many blogs are likely to follow as Linda is researching camping facilities with WiFi). The theatre and music continue, as you may have noticed from my blogs. Our world is just as troubled as my youth, unawares.
In looking back, my theatre style would be tragi-comedy and my music blues. A song which dominated my thinking 30 years ago still comes to mind when I summarize my 50 years is Larry Norman’s Great American Novel. I won’t debate his theology or details of his historical references, but the attitude of the song is what I experience… this is oral history, remember. (If you do not want to read all the lyrics, skip to the last stanza for the core ideas)
i was born and raised an orphan/ in a land that once was free/ in a land that poured its love out on the moon/ and i grew up in the shadows/ of your silos filled with grain/ but you never helped to fill my empty spoon
and when i was ten you murdered law/ with courtroom politics/ and you learned to make a lie sound just like truth/ but i know you better now/ and i don’t fall for all your tricks/ and you’ve lost the one advantage of my youth
you kill a black man at midnight/ just for talking to your daughter/ then you make his wife your mistress/ and leave her without water/ and the sheet you wear upon your face/ is the sheet your children sleep on/ at every meal you say a prayer/ you don’t believe but still you keep on
you are far across the ocean/but the war is not your own/ and while you’re winning theirs/ you’re gonna lose the one at home/ do you really think the only way/ to bring about the peace/ is to sacrifice your children/ and kill all your enemies
the politicians all make speeches/ while the newsmen all take notes/ and they exaggerate the issues/ as they shove them down our throats/ is it really up to them whether/ this country sinks or floats/ well i wonder who would lead us/ if none of us would vote
well my phone is tapped/ and my lips are chapped/ from whispering through the fence/ you know every move i make/ or is that just coincidence/ will you try to make my way of life/ a little less than jail/ if i promise to make tapes and slides/ and send them through the mail
and your money says in God we trust/ but it’s against the law to pray in school/ you say we beat the russians to the moon/ and i say you starved your children to do it
you say all men are equal all men are brothers/ then why are the rich more equal than others/ don’t ask me for the answers i’ve only got one/ that a man leaves his darkness when he follows the Son
The drama continues to unfold. The music continues to play. If I live another 50 years I may see Halley’s Comet for a second time in my life. Meanwhile, let me figure out those senior discounts.