15 February 2012: Shouting a barbaric yawp at age 62

Shouting a barbaric yawp at age 62

On February 15th, young men ran through the streets of ancient Rome wearing only goatskins to celebrate Lupercalia. We have goat skins in Clear Creek, but all occupied by original tenants. Not being a great-white hunter, my preference is to allow them to continue being comfortable in their own skins.

On February 15, 1950 I was wearing not a goat skin but a birthday suit, the last time I was so underdressed in public.

Turning 62 happens only once in a person’s life. I don’t read too much into it because each birthday is a one-time event. Life is quirky that way.

As F. Scott Fitzgerald concisely framed it, there are no second acts in life, so it’s good to make the best of it.

When I turned 30, I thought little of it; but at 40, I hit the wall: halfway through life and living in Aurora. How sad is that!

By 44, I shook off the doldrums—mid-life crises can be prolonged pity-parties—and moved to these hills to, as Thoreau expresses it, “live deliberately” so “not, when time to die, discover I had not lived.”

I came to realize the only thing worse than turning 40 was never turning 40, so I ran with it…literally. Hitting 50 and 60 were pieces of birthday cake.

At 50 I threw my own party, carousing with friends, and declared a moratorium on future events. Now I’m eligible for Social Security and in three years, Medicare. My teaching career is in the world of memories, great ones, though if I were still at it, I’d be organizing protests over the sterilization of public education.

Life goes on, however, and with it comes the responsibility to also move on.

One should endeavor to live fearlessly. Fear is, after all, a learned behavior and as such, optional. While awareness of one’s surroundings is good practice, it’s good to recall our fight-or-flight instinct is a remnant of our caveman past, unless, of course, one’s descended from the tribe that began in the Garden of Eden but was compelled to beget outside of it either with each other—yuk!—or with my tree-swinging ancestors—cool!

Expulsion was the price they paid for being inquisitive and explains why their progeny are reluctant to challenge authority or to question the rhyme or reason for doing something the way it’s always been done, even if it weren’t. Mythology can serve as comfort food for the mind.

I like to liken life’s journey to running the bases in baseball with reaching second base a metaphor for mid-life. Undoubtedly, I rounded second a long time ago, so the question before me: How many steps remaining to third?

In astrology, Saturn and Uranus rule Aquarius. According to Isabel Hickey, Saturn is the “agent which crystallizes forms” while Uranus is the “shattering force that breaks up old forms,” which sounds more like me. It also helps explain why I feel obligated to bring fun and vitality to conservatives’ mundane existences.

Of course, as an Aquarian, I don’t put much stock in non-provable, esoteric constructs.

Nevertheless, with Uranus orbiting the sun every 84 years, I used to think 84 would be the perfect age to check out. Three individuals since have caused me to reconsider: a 92-year-old gentleman still skiing The Jane; Andy Rooney, who moved on at 92, a month after his last 60 Minutes broadcast; and Betty White, the iconic Golden Girl still doing her shtick at 90.

If I live only to 84, I’m a step away from third, the three-quarter mark. If I live to 92, that allows 6 additional strides since age 69 would represent third base. I like that.

When nearing home plate, I intend to slide in head first, eating dust and avoiding the tag, so to leave this world covered with raspberries and enter the spirit world with a s**t-eating grin on my spiritual face where I’ll high-five the Buddha. It would be, after all, an inside-the-park homerun. No need for a second act.

So it would go.

To celebrate my non-unique big day and Lupercalia, I could do laps around Georgetown. But being reticent to deprive a furry, four-legged, nimble-hoofed fraternity brother of his skin, I’d be forced to doing them in my slightly wrinkled but still fit birthday suit or my usual synthetic running garb, which would somehow detract from the occasion.

Or I can climb a tree to honor my stout and fearless ancestors and, in the words of Walt Whitman, “sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.” For like him, “I too am not a bit tamed.” At least, so I like to think.

Still, I’ll check the weather first: February can be nippy and brisk, and if I’m to reach 92, I have a few more steps not to plan for.

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