Young Man Stares at Sixty

I had an unusual experience not long ago. My daughter had put in a request to have Irish Beef Stew for supper, and by that we mean real Irish stew made with Guinness Stout. I am not one who buys alcohol on a regular basis. I found the beef, some Dubliner Cheese (I did say Irish, didn’t I?), and the stout. The young lady at the checkout asked to see my ID. I sort of laughed to myself. Surely my balding head was a sign that I was not some kid trying get alcohol illegally! Surely the white in my beard was a sign of aging and not a dye-job! Surely she had to be kidding! But no! When they say they card everyone, they mean everyone. Even older guys who are just trying to make supper.

Perhaps I should have been more flattered than frustrated. I could have made a comment but decided to keep my tongue.

You know, for a second I thought that perhaps she was carding me so that I could get a Senior Discount! While that wasn’t the case, it did make me more conscious of the fact that I was ready to hit sixty.

We have a tendency to endow those birthdays that end with zeroes with greater significance. They are major mile markers along the journey. Hitting the 20s and the 30s and 40s and 50s are all times for joking and ribbing and making light of the fact that we’re still living this life.

So I’ve been thinking about hitting 60. I have some friends who are good with numbers; in fact, I have some friends who have been actual actuarials. They could easily point out to me that I have probably moved into a different bracket in terms of life insurance premiums or health insurance rates. They would be quick to point out that statistically I have probably already lived 75% of my life—or maybe more!

That’s a sobering thought. I’ve got fewer days left here than I have already lived. And truth be told, some of them were probably wasted in frivilous pursuits. I haven’t always been ambitious or driven or successful. I haven’t achieved everything that I ever set out to do. I have done some good things and maybe made a little difference along the way. But the list I could make of all that I had dreamed would be much, much longer than the list I’ve done. And the timeline is no longer in my favor.

Hitting 60 makes me mindful of how precious each moment and each day is. It makes me mindful that eternity is closer than it appears. It makes me mindful that I need a much finer focus on my goals, my activities, my achievements, my tasks. I find myself looking ahead with much more intentionality than I had when I was hitting 40 or 50.

The negative way to think about that is how much I’ve left undone and how much harder I’m going to have to work to catch up. Can those days and minutes be redeemed? Can I cash in some of my leisure for more intensive labor? I cannot have the time back, but can I use the time before me with greater effect? It is quite possible to look at this date and let it drive me in some ways that may not be healthy. I could start to catalog a list of regrets and focus on them. I could add former goals back into the mix and try to figure out how to achieve them now. I could stack the deck against myself so that I would approach every day with a certain mix of ambition and anxiety that could create a toxic mixture that would leave me feeling each day as if I’m further and further behind.

The positive way is to think that there are still worthwhile tasks to accomplish and that I’m healthy and able enough to do some of them. I can still connect with people that matter to me; I can encourage and pray for them. I can still walk and enjoy Creation and moments of wonder and awe. I can still preach and share what I believe God is calling us to do. I can still pray and lift up others who have needs and concerns. I can still play the guitar (which I need to do much more often—I hear you, Sioux!) and enjoy the incredible sensation of making music either alone or with others. I can still play games with friends and family. I can and enjoy laughter and lighter moments with others. I can do all kinds of things that others cannot. And I’m still free to choose which ones I’ll do.

So as I stare at 60 I’m thankful for life and especially for the chance to keep on living it. I have experienced and learned much that I am able to share with others. I still look forward to wonderful adventures with new places to see and new people to meet. I am still thankful for more gifts and blessings than I could easily count.

I remember that my grandfather, Cecil Delaney Stockton, always said that age is just a state of mind. He said that you are as young as you feel. He was always looking ahead, always optimistic, always ready to go somewhere he’d never seen, always ready to share in a celebration. He was a dear, dear soul. I have the sense that he was as young when he passed away one day shy of his 95th birthday as when he was a young boy moving west in a covered wagon, or a young man riding the rails during the Great Depression, or a young father rejoicing in this family. He had a big smile that revealed a big heart. Age is just a state of mind.

So as I stare at 60 I still feel like I’m looking forward. There is still much to do. There is still much to enjoy. There are still songs to sing and stories to tell. There are still laughs to give and receive. There is still a world to be loved and cared for. If I follow my grandfather, then I’m only about 66% of the way through this life. That makes me feel like I’ve still got a whole lifetime ahead of me. Indeed, I do.

*Thanks Rebekah Cranor for this shot of me from this summer in Alaska!!

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