The Big Six-Oh
There have been two earth-shattering birthdays in my life. One was when I turned 30. The other will be next week when I turn 60. I plan on spending about four days in bed, curled up in the fetal position, wondering how long it takes to get out of a deep depression.
Anyone who is born between July 23 and Aug. 22 is a Leo. According to modern astrology, "Leos are vital, confident, proud and masterful. They love drama and luxury, and have wide creative interests. Blessed with many abilities, they are natural executives and tireless workers, generous and high-minded. Their manner will often be dramatic and full of warmth. They are tempted to show off and may at times appear self-centered."
In other words, I'm full of many things, including myself. This is probably true. That's why people think I'm self-centered. But just because I think I'm better than everyone else doesn't necessarily mean I'm self-centered -- it just means I'm full of it. And as a true Leo, I'm proud to be full of it.
Anyway, I'll be 60 years old in a couple of days. This is the age when you start the downhill skid of life into oblivion. You're too old to show off and too young to collect Social Security. It's a state of limbo between being able to remember the good times and being wise enough not to try to repeat them.
It's also the age where you reflect on your life and try to figure out what went wrong. In my case, nothing went wrong. It didn't exactly go as planned, but I wouldn't change one minute of it. Even though my mind is slowly turning to mush, I can still remember most of it.
Turning 60 can also be a blessing. For example, you can talk out loud to yourself all day long and no one will bat an eye, especially if you have a dog or a cat lurking nearby. But you still can't talk to your goldfish until you reach 80, otherwise your relatives will be plotting to put you in a home for old codgers and dingbats.
The changes I've witnessed in my lifetime have been incredible. I remember when my grandmother in Wisconsin had a wood stove for heat and cooking. Her refrigerator was called an icebox because a guy on a horse drawn wagon would come by on occasion to put a fresh block of ice in the "box" sitting on the back porch.
My family didn't even have a television set until I was in the fifth grade. And when you wanted to change channels, you actually had to walk across the room and turn a dial. Life was rough back then, particularly for channel-flippers.
When I was young, I rode my bike with no helmet, rode in cars with no seatbelts, climbed trees, and drank water out of a garden hose. I'm lucky to be alive. I didn't have a computer or a cell phone. In school, I was actually required to read and write, to do math without a calculator and to pass tests.
But thanks to modern technology and a zillion regulations dictated by the government to protect me from myself, the world is now a much better place. And even if it isn't, it doesn't really matter because the government will pass another zillion regulations tomorrow and everything will continue to progress (or regress, depending on your point-of-view).
Pardon my cynicism. I tend to get a bit grumpy every 30 years during my birthday. When I hit 90, it would be wise to steer clear of me for a few days. Being cranky at that age is a badge of honor. After 90 years on this planet, you have the right to growl once in awhile.
Turning 60 is a lot like falling into a vat of raw sewage -- it stinks, but you can always take a shower and start fresh the next day. My guess is that I'll need to take more than one shower.