October 24, 2019

Playing With House Money

I turned 75 back in May.

Three quarters of a century on this planet should prompt one to do some reflecting and it had that effect on me.

I remember the first time I could call up memories from 20 years prior. I was 30 at the time and bemused by the fact that I could easily remember things that had happened in 1954 from the vantage point of 1974. Twenty years, I said to myself. Wow. Thought about that for a while and then turned up the Beach Boys album.

Now I can remember stuff that happened 65 years ago.


One of the other things that seem to come with the territory is the ability to reflect on what you’ve been privileged to observe across all the decades: politics, wars, technological changes, human nature in action.

Some quick thoughts on all of that:

– Human nature doesn’t seem to change all that much. Technology may evolve at warp speed but not the dominant species. We seem to me to be advanced primates that got stuck with a soul somewhere along the way. It’s uncomfortable…and we don’t wear it that well.

– Politics may have always been BS. Probably was. But the speakers – at the upper end – tended to be more eloquent and more interesting. That probably went along with greater intelligence and a higher level of education on their part…most of it self-directed. Think: Lincoln.

– The music of the 1960’s was the best: the flowering of the rock seeds that were sown in the 1950’s. Second place: the 1940’s. Sorry kids!

– Baseball may have been better in the 50’s when players stuck with one team and nobody made much money. Think: Willie Mays. Mickey Mantle once told Yankees management that he wanted to make whatever Willie made minus $5,000 because Willie was a better ballplayer. Imaging that happening today!

(I’ll have more to say about baseball next week.)

At 75, you know you’re on the “back nine.” That can be a very calming notion. It’s like nearing the end of a long hike, a long climb, a long paddle from Catalina to Newport. You may be a little the worse for wear, but there’s also a sense of accomplishment and completion.

If you’ve lived a full life and taken your chances along the way, there’ll have been victories and defeats, successes and failures, smart decisions and dumb mistakes all woven into the tapestry.

The way I see it, after 75 years all of that stuff evens out.

The sins have been paid for, the mistakes taken aboard as wisdom, the victories cherished in retrospect. Even the physical aspects of aging, while less-than-comfortable, can be seen as the residue of a life lived to the full. The scars, visible and invisible, become badges of honor.

It’s as if you were playing with house money the rest of the way.

A number of opportunities remain before you. You most likely have enough command of your own time to focus your efforts on those things that carry meaning for you in the greater context of your life. Perhaps you want to focus on giving back to your community, or to learn a skill you were unable to find the time for in the past. Maybe there’s one of those causes – bigger than yourself – to which you now have time to devote some serious energy. And there are always the kids and the grand-kids. Whatever you want to impart to them in the time remaining to you needs to move to the front of the agenda.

To paraphrase the words of the great Samuel Johnson: “At seventy-five it is time to be in earnest.”