A younger friend called and sang the B.J. Thomas song, “Hair Plugs Keep Fallin' Off My Head.” I hung up on him. Everything's funnier when you're young and 50 is still a black hole, an undiscovered continent awash in snow, ice, and woolly mammoths. Sure I have a few rust spots, an over-inflated tire, and my headlights are a megawatt too dim. But today I feel pretty chipper and last I checked today was all they give you here at The Home.
Even my dog is old. Moments ago Mojo III fell asleep sitting on my lap and were it not for my lightning reflexes, she would have hit the floor. I think I pulled some fat saving her life. I'm at the age where your muscles still don't have the good sense to lie dormant. I play softball because my son asks me to then spend the winter nursing Achilles tendons that feel like they're being chewed on by a pack of rabid Chihuahuas.
The year I was born Mr. Ed, a talking horse, made his television debut, as did ads for the electric toothbrush, FM Stereo, and a redundant little accoutrement sure to fail: Pampers. In the fifties, people paid good money to watch nuclear explosions at close range, and more doctors smoked Camels than any other cigarette. But come the sixties, we got serious. We learned how to survive nuclear fallout by hunkering beneath school desks, and the Canadian Medical Association admitted that, by golly, smoking just may cause lung cancer and doctors should point the way by butting out.
Two friends from my era just informed me they didn't celebrate their birthdays this year—didn't even have a wake, just opted to ignore the doorbell and see if the visitor would go away. Another friend calls it the 20th anniversary of her 30th, but I call it 50 and have decided to enjoy it for at least four reasons:
- I feel pretty good for an old guy. God knows how many days I have left, but today I'm able to get to the fridge and navigate most staircases. This is the only body I get so I might as well take care of it. I exercise three times a week because it's the poor man's Botox and it feels good when I stop. I opt for fruit over fruitcake and fresh veggies over fried ones. I am learning to enjoy a salad if it's covered in cheese, and rarely eat more than I can lift.
- My vices are meagre. I drink more cola than I should, knowing it contains all the goodness of radial tires, but believing it to be one of life's delightful elixirs. I was once a pack-a-day smoker. But that was fifth grade and I quit the day I started.
- It's my year of Jubilee. Biblically the 50th is a year of joy and pardon. Everyone is to return home, forgive debts, and set free any indentured servants. I am running into roadlocks trying to enforce this. Our adult children eagerly return home, but only for lavish meals. The killjoys at the bank insist I continue mortgage payments. And though I offered my wife the year off, she still cooks because she loves me and knows that without her I will resort to subsisting on roots and pinecones and be dead within two weeks.
- I'm one year closer to Home. Look in the mirror and you'll discover that gravity doesn't tend to lift anything. A recent study claims that 100 per cent of people are dying. It's epidemic. Thankfully this life is a dress rehearsal for the real thing. The thought of eternity with Christ brings me a wider grin than ever. In fact, it would make my hair stand on end. If I had some.
This longing to be with Jesus doesn't mean I do silly things to get there faster or that I'm content to leave the world as it is. But hope bubbles to the surface more quickly than it did even a year ago. C. S. Lewis wrote, “It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this one.” And so this hope beckons me to do something lasting here.
I can truly say—without medication—that I love 50. I can stay up as late as I want now. Sometimes until 8 p.m. My parents don't tell me what to do anymore, though other people do. Last week both the police and the doctor told me to slow down.