One day you turn around and it’s summer
Next day you turn around and it’s fall
And the springs and the winters of a lifetime
Whatever happened to them all? – Frank Sinatra
I never thought about getting old until about six years ago. It hit me at 48 that the numbers were getting higher and I was getting slower. I tried my best to ignore it but here I am.
I find it, perhaps, something of a condition that many people, when the reach a certain age, look back upon their parent’s music and culture with a bit of wistfulness. The world of the 50s and 60s seen through rose colored glasses and, indeed, our world of the 70s and 80s as well.
At some point around this age, my mother started watching Lawrence Welk. This was a woman who had come into the music scene with Elvis Presley and Bill Haley. Now she was listening to champagne music.
And so at some point I started becoming a big Sinatra fan – not of him personally but his music. It wasn’t all that long ago I first heard ‘The September of My Years.’ I had to sit down and contemplate that, as so many people made his songs their own, this song now applied to me.
And the song, included in the album of the same name, won a Grammy after its 1965 release. I was three when it was released. I do remember hearing it play at my maternal grandparent’s house in Cleveland late in the decade. The album they owned is now part of my collection. Amazing how things sometimes come full circle.
Indeed, the years and seasons flew by and whatever happened to them all? I tell kids a truism: time crawls when you’re young until you reach about 25 then it starts speeding up. By the time you’re 45 it starts racing a breakneck speed and then you remember the hurry you were in to grow up and wish you hadn’t been.
I collect old things – radios, matchbooks, coins, magazines and newspapers. I guess my basement is my own private museum of the past and if I want to, I can get lost down there and never come back. I can speak only for my own mental condition that when one has blazed through their life with reckless abandon, the memories as less sweet and more regretful. If a few clear-headed decisions could have been made, so much grief could have been avoided.
It’s a trap, of course. The constant ruminations of a life that had seemed so vital is buried in regret and shame without giving thanks for the good times and relative health. People like us tend to be that way.
And so the only way out is to plunge headfirst into some venture without thinking that, depending on what it is, time is so much shorter than it was. At some point, those who reach my age and are able to comfortably retire (which I could have been now if not for some of those decisions referenced above) find it more pleasurable to travel and hang out with friends and discuss the new and old over cocktails.
I suppose that would not be a bad way to spend one’s twilight years. For men, it can be a number of hobbies – golf, travel, volunteer mentoring, the arts – all the things there wasn’t time for when working for a living.
I face the prospect of working another eight years at least, perhaps 10. Truth be told, if I was to retire now, even with enough money to pay the bills, I’d be adrift without anything to do. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. But when you’re still working, well, for me, that holds on to a certain portion of youth where you can still imagine making grand plans with your time off. Some time off is good. Eternal time off would present me with problems.
The key thing in my life was, despite my numerous disastrous grand plans and personal reinventions, I always had another mountain to climb, another thing to experience, another vista to reach. Now it seems, as far as work, that I have gotten as far as I am going to go. With print journalism and radio dead as careers, I am stuck here making the best of it. There is no longer anywhere else to go.
I keep thinking – there must be one more mountain to climb, one more objective to reach. That has been my life. The things I reached for may have exploded but at least there was some sense of linear progression. Keep moving forward was my unofficial motto.
So what is left to do? In the song, Sinatra sings about slowing down to enjoy the parts of life we may have missed in our hurry to grow up and be successful. We become wistful and nostalgic.
As I man who has never paused at wishing wells
Now I’m watching children’s carousels
And their laughter’s music to my ears
And I find that I’m smiling gently as I near
September, the warm September of my years
There is something to said for aging gracefully, but although I have given up hiding my gray hair, I do not find wandering around musing at the sights and sounds I missed as a young man to be for me.
The last refuge of the spent career man is self-improvement. If I can no longer be the next Walter Cronkite, I can be someone better than I have been.
I am trying to accomplish something I’ve never done before. I have never lived quietly and I do not plan to die quietly but reaching out for one last goal. The September of my Years will be the September I never had. I’ll write about it next, but here is a clue:
Dead coaches live in the air, son live
In the ear
Like fathers, and urge and urge. They want you better
Than you are. When needed, they rise and curse you
When something must be saved.