Turn, turn, turn

“How does it feel, Mom?” my daughter asked in a phone call recently. I had to ask what she meant. “Turning 65,” she answered.

Oh. That. I’m not sure. I think about it. The Federal government makes sure of that. I read the Medicare book like a textbook, making margin notes. Using highlighter. The deadline looms like an SAT test.

I remember other milestone birthdays. At seven I got my first two-wheeler. So exciting! Learning to stay upright on that shiny blue bike was the beginning of my independence, and I knew it. I can still visualize riding down the sidewalk on West 27th Street in Manhattan, exhilarated. I still ride a bike. I hope I never stop.

Ten was big. Double digits. I loved being 10. Still young enough to be silly but old enough to go to the store by myself.

Thirteen did not appeal to me. You were the youngest teenager, at the mercy of all the other teenagers. Nobody took you seriously at 13.

Eighteen was okay, but I was too cool to make a big deal of it. I got carded on my 18th birthday buying beer at the local deli. I had been buying beer there for two years already. Boys I knew were getting their lottery numbers for the draft. The war was dragging on, killing dozens of them every day. I thought I was way older than 18.

Twenty-one. In 1971, the 26th Amendment was passed, lowering the voting age to 18 from 21. In 1971, I had turned 19, so 21 was no longer the threshold it had once been. Still, I felt I was a recognized adult now. As a result I made a lot of stupid choices.

By the time I turned 30 I had cleaned up my act, reversing most of the bad decisions I had made in my early 20s. I felt good at 30. I felt I was the age I was meant to be.

Forty was a bit of a setback. I began to question my worth as a human being. I was too old to win the Yale Younger Poets award. The Yale Younger Poets committee didn’t know I existed. Clearly, I was going to amount to nothing.

But 50. Wow. What happened? All that consternation and existential doubt disappeared just in time to host a big half-centennial celebration on a friend’s decommissioned ferry boat in the Hudson River. Friends and family convened from all over. Letters and cards were assembled into a memory book by a good friend. Fifty had always sounded old and frumpy, but now I felt alive and full of determination.

Sixty slipped by unnoticed. I wasn’t feeling it. The age didn’t represent anything I could relate to. By 60, my mother was already twice widowed. My father and step-father never made it to 60. Neither did either of my brothers.

Now I’m turning 65. I’m a grandmother, which seems fitting for my age, and delightful. My first-born will turn 30 this year, a milestone for him. I’ve been claiming senior status at the movies for years already, but I will gladly purchase a half-price Metro Card just in time for another fare hike. I like the status 65 confers. I trust my judgment more, and I’m less inclined to pass judgment on others. I’m learning to cut myself some slack. I think about the future as much as I ever did. It just seems a little closer now. Does that answer your question?

 

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