Jim Bishop | The Sixty-Four Thousand Dollar Question: I’m How Old?

It doesn’t seem long ago that the lyrics to that Beatles’ song, from their tour de force album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” prompted me to think, “Wow, 64, that is ancient.”

Ironically, Paul McCartney wrote “When I’m Sixty Four” when he was only 16. McCartney, by the way, turned 64 on June 18, 2006.

In a few days, I will achieve the same feat – hit 64, that is, not compose a hit song – and I’m not about to hang up my rock and roll shoes, either. I still enjoy putting my best (which one?) foot forward, doing some of those prehistoric dances from my high school days – the jitterbug, the stroll, the bop and, best of all, the slow dance to some “back seat” classic ballads, along with regular Leather and Lace country-western dance club engagements.

I may sag another year deeper into the sixties, yet I resolve not to act like a disgruntled mason and throw in the trowel anytime soon.

In some areas of life, I feel perceived as a relic by some colleagues. This child of the ’50s, marooned in the 21st century, continues to question certain technological trends with accompanying planned obsolescence.

To me, so much of what is foisted on us as “communication breakthrough” involves more noise than substance. I now carry a cell phone wherever I go, but I’d still prefer to manage without one. I refuse to use the device while driving or in public places unless responding to an urgent message. Call me anti-social, but I’ve little interest in participating in MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media. I can scarcely keep up with my daily deluge of electronic mail as is.

I mourn the passing of places like Town and Campus Records and Plan 9 with their “bargain bins” of used but playable vinyl. The local “record shop,” like the one I patronized in amassing some 50 years worth of 45 rpm discs and albums, has vanished, leaving me to make the occasional purchase from special interest catalogs, the personal touch and helpful assistance but a memory.

I am blessed with relatively good physical health – which could change suddenly – but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep my energy and enthusiasm levels up in seeking to contribute in meaningful ways to my work – at the same locale and similar role for nearly 38 years.

I spend all Saturday afternoon working in the lawn and flower beds and by evening my body reminds me that I did too much. It should be no surprise, but I think I’m invincible, capable of replicating the Energizer Bunny that keeps on going and going and . . .

The recurring concern these days is not so much anxiety attacks as a “nice problem” to have – as Alan Jackson puts it, “Too much of a good thing . . . is a good thing.” That is, the very things I enjoy doing most are keeping me too busy and at arm’s length from achieving certain other tasks.

I want to keep doing all the stuff I did 10-15 years ago, because these pursuits – radio, free-lance writing, this column – provide the needed discipline of regular deadlines and help invigorate the more routine, repetitive aspects of my “regular” work.

At what point should I reassess these areas and determine what can and should be downsized or eliminated? It’s a tough question for one who thrives on much activity and getting strokes from seeing tangible fruits of my labor.

It appears the challenge facing me at this time is to draw from the satisfactions, learning and mistakes of these accrued years, weigh their meaning and then make some necessary priority adjustments that won’t come easily.

Poet-dramatist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe took this philosophical approach: “A name is not like a mantle which merely hangs about him, and which one perchance may safely twitch and pull, but a perfectly fitting garment, which, like the skin, has grown over and over him, at which one cannot rake and scrape without injuring the man himself.”

The best part of arriving so quickly at this life stage is that my loving, faithful companion, Anna, is right there with me. Together we’ll open AARP and long-term care insurance mailings and echo the Beatles’ sentiments – every summer renting a cottage [at Ocean City], scrimping and saving, stating points of view, grandchildren at our knees, wasting away together, with God as our co-pilot, come what may.


– Column by Jim Bishop

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