Bring it on, 60

by Mick Rhodes |

As my 60th birthday approached this week I was thinking about writing on how though I am now officially careening toward geezerdom, I still feel like a kid. But that would be a lie. I feel my age, and that’s okay.

Being 60 doesn’t bother me. I’m glad and grateful to be here, aches and all.

I was diagnosed with a rare cancer, a “liposarcoma,” when I was 44. Doctors hit me with radiation for a month then cut out the tumor, and after another month of radiation, on New Year’s Eve 2007 I was done and have been (knock wood) cancer free ever since. In 2014 I had a “mini-stroke,” a transient ischemic attack, or “T.I.A.” they call it. It was super weird, but the effects were temporary, and I felt back to normal after a couple days. Then in 2015 I developed a staph infection that nearly killed me. But it didn’t.

All this to say I have already been through what I hope to be my share of the earlier in life scary stuff. These are the gravy years; I have a beautiful wife who loves me, a bunch of kids who mostly like me, a close group of longtime friends, a great and fulfilling job, a lovely little home, and am still able to play and write music and make records. I’ve no complaints, and this wasn’t always the case, so I’m profoundly grateful for my blind luck and good fortune.

People say age is just a number, and I get what they mean. But I don’t feel like a teenager in body or mind, especially body. Plus, I was a nervous teenager, insecure, flailing about pleasing people. Who wants to feel like that? I no longer worry about pleasing people. I help where I can, but as my best friend advised me years ago, “Other peoples’ opinions of you are none of your business.” I like that, and have tried to abide by it best I can since.

Getting older has not been without its challenges, but honestly, I’m enjoying the fringe benefits, which have mostly come in the form of not giving a damn about a lot of stuff that used to bother me. But, I do have an age-related confession: since my hair went white and thin 10 years ago I admit to having availed myself to senior discounts somewhat prematurely at movie theaters and the occasional diner. Since my hair’s pigment cells gave up on me so early and cruelly, I count this as a justifiable crime.

When my grandfather was in his mid-70s he began mixing a supplement he called “barley green” into a glass of water twice a day. He persisted into his 90s with this stuff, and one day I asked him why: “It puts the zip in your zipper!” he said. I took this to mean it helped keep things humming in the bedroom with his longtime girlfriend, who was about 10 years his junior. I’m hoping to model some aspects of my later years on my grandfather’s ethos, which apparently included being sexually active into his 90s. A noble goal, I believe.

My father died when he was 60, and that number has been significant to me since. I’m there now, and have my eye on 61. I was 46 when my son was born in 2010. I remember doing the math and realizing I’d be 64 when he graduated from high school. Now here we are just a few years away and I plan on making it.

And I know I can’t do it alone.

In May a bombshell study dropped, “The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on the Healing Effects of Social Connection and Community,” which concluded “The physical health consequences of poor or insufficient connection include a 29% increased risk of heart disease, a 32% increased risk of stroke, and a 50% increased risk of developing dementia for older adults. Additionally, lacking social connection increases risk of premature death by more than 60%.”

I saw my mom succumb to isolation and depression in the years leading up to her too early death in 2017 at 72. This is another model I am considering as I age, not to emulate, but to avoid.

I figure working, writing and playing music, spending time with friends and family, going out into the world to see art, and traveling will help keep me socially connected. My kids should keep me amused and involved for a couple more decades as well, I hope.

I’m still mostly open to new things, especially when it comes to art. Though I draw the line at mosh pits, I still appreciate a great punk rock band. And though my kids will no doubt roll their eyes, I dig some of the weirder branches of the hip-hop tree. Oddball visual art and films still make me happy, and though I do buy my socks at Costco, I’ve thus far managed to avoid the full-on older white guy khaki pants/golf shirt uniform. Not that there’s anything wrong with that look, it’s just not for me. I still adore thrift stores, and don’t think I’ll ever stop searching for vintage men’s clothes from the 1940s and ‘50s. They’re increasingly harder to find, but the thrill is in the hunt, and it’s an inexpensive vice.

I guess what I’m trying to say is I am endeavoring to keep it together and staying around for a while, like my grandfather did, as I dive into my 60s.

It’s raining as I write this, the petrichor wafting in from my open office window. I’m thinking about my friends and family who reached out yesterday to wish me a happy birthday. I’ve re-read my kids’ handmade cards and their texts. Each fills my heart with gratitude, and my eyes with happy tears.

Though I’m just one day in, I give my 60s five stars.


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