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Humor April 2013

Strictly Humor

One into Sixty

By B. Elwin Sherman

That’s Mother Pauline. If you even hint to her that it’s okay if being in her 80s slows her down a little, she’ll defiantly stop what she’s doing, stoop over and plant her palms flat on the floor without bending her knees (you try it). End of that discussion.

As Jack Benny would tell it, this week I’ll be celebrating the 21st anniversary of my 39th birthday.

Sixty years old.

In this culture, that officially moves me into senior citizen status, though until now I really hadn’t given it much thought. My dictionary defines “sixty” as “the natural number following 59 and preceding 61.” That’s about the amount of significance I’d applied to it until another still-junior citizen friend reminded me:

“So … turning 60 soon, eh? Where should I send the sympathy card?”

Sixty.

There’s something about the number that demands my coming to attention, but I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about it. Accomplished? Depressed? Surprised? Amazed? Six decades here and I should feel like something more than the dictionary definition of me sitting between passengers 59 and 61 on the flight o’ life, but that’s about all I can muster.

It can’t simply be the numerical age. My mom is 80-something, and in many ways, she’s living younger and better than I have or do now, so that’s not it. It’s been said that most of us aren’t really afraid of aging, anyway, but rather of how people treat us, and don’t treat us, as we get older.

That’s Mother Pauline. If you even hint to her that it’s okay if being in her 80s slows her down a little, she’ll defiantly stop what she’s doing, stoop over and plant her palms flat on the floor without bending her knees (you try it). End of that discussion.

Still, as a humor reader, you’re right to expect something from me upon my reaching threescore years, if only because of its mere numeration. An inventory? A comparison study? I must owe us both something 60ish for my moving into 60-something.

I once asked a woman on the occasion of her 100th birthday if there was some secret she’d kept, some special formula or practice she’d used to achieve longevity that she’d be willing to share with the rest of us. She answered without hesitation: “Don’t die, you damn fool.”

So, at this new milestone, let’s not die and instead try summing up some of the things I’ve come to know and believe and still wonder about at 60. Ready? Bend over, palms on the floor, and straighten those knees:

I know that pushing an elevator button more than once won’t help, but I still do it, and will continue to do it.

I know that pounding on a steering wheel will sometimes start a cold engine, jiggling the toilet handle will always work, and body English can turn back baseballs curving foul or bowling balls headed for the gutter.

I know that science and poetry are more entertaining, and sometimes work better, when they switch job descriptions.

I know that I’d like to live long enough to see the world’s first head transplant.

I know that I’d like to be part of the world’s first head transplant, but I can’t decide whether the role donor or recipient would be more fun.

I know that it’s easier in this life to accept losing a thing or a person (wedding ring, wife) when you know where they went (down the drain, Cleveland) than it is if they just disappear. I know that no atheist ever killed another atheist for not being a devout enough atheist.

I know that I agree with the guy who said that we only succumb to the effects of aging if and when we give up the urge to throw a snowball.

I know that in 60 years, I’ve still never met anyone who can say “black bug’s blood” three times fast. I know that is why I love language.

I know that “A horse walks into a bar and the bartender says, ‘Hey, why the long face?’” is still the funniest joke and maybe the most profound hidden meaning of life ever recorded.

I know that some people, when they smell flowers, will always look around for a passing hearse.

I know that I never saw a hearse pulling a trailer.

I know that a young grandson painting his first picture is my definition of a miracle, and that living long enough to see it is my good fortune.

I know, as I embrace my new sexagenarianism, that I still never want it explained to me by scientists masquerading as poets and vice-versa, exactly how a migrating bird can tell north from south, or what a dog thinks when it watches television. I know that knowing how many atoms are in which of my elements does not change my life one iota. I don’t know how many iotas make up a smidgeon, and I don’t care. Some things should remain mysteries.

I know that scooping up a snowball like I did today, and just making it smack into that furthest fencepost again this year (insert your own body English) … makes 61 worth shooting for.

I know that sixty divided by one is thirty-nine, and I’m keeping it that way.

 

Humor columnist B. Elwin Sherman launches his columns from Bethlehem, N.H.

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