"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Saturday, November 17, 2018

So This Is Sixty, Is It?


As so many Facebook and private e-mail friends have piled on today to wish me a happy birthday, I'd like to thank each and every one of you. With more than 700 already, I've given up trying to go in and acknowledge every one of them.

That said, I now openly admit to turning 60 today, which I suppose is some sort of milestone or millstone, perhaps. In fact, with now 60 of them, I've basically been celebrating birthdays for two months of my lifetime. Sixty is the birthday that is supposed to signal the crossover from "middle aged" into full-fledged geezerhood. You go from "Get off my lawn" and "Aren't you too damned young to be a doctor?" straight into shopping for golf carts and having entire portions of your body independently deciding to give up the ghost and void the warranty. 

When you're 40, you start asking about Viagra. 

At 50, you start forging prescriptions for the stuff, or just demanding it outright with high decibel screams. 

By 60, you can't remember why.

From 60 onward there's more behind us than in front of us, and I've already been scoping out nice burial plots. With a view, just in case. And ostentatious headstone designs. Preferably involving solar powered LED lighting. After a lifetime of lowering property values in every neighborhood I've ever inhabited, I'd at least like to follow through in death. Deceased Russian mobsters seem to be a good inspiration in that regard.

Russian crime lords have the best headstones 

At prior ten year intervals, there have been parties or other special memorable events. When I turned 40, I had just petitioned for the degrees of Freemasonry and would become an Entered Apprentice in another three days. Of course, I had also just purchased my first Chrysler and had two sets of golf clubs in the trunk, so I thought life was all but over then. Just ten years later – on my 50th – I was being interviewed for my first Masonic television show by A&E, and had lunch with the video crew at Gadsby's Tavern in Alexandria. 

In the last ten years, I've survived obesity, a 14 pound goiter, heart failure, stomach cancer, partial blindness, partial deafness, drug interaction-induced insanity, and I can't smell anything anymore. By the way, nobody will tell you, but chemo makes your original teeth fall out at random moments, usually at a public dinner right before you are expected to make a speech. All in all, I feel pretty good. I answer to the name "Lucky."

That's how strange life can be when you aren't paying attention. You never know. No one ever knows. 

Which is why a longstanding, common theme of Freemasonry and most major fraternal organizations over the last three centuries has been, in order to live a better life, contemplate Death, and live every day as though it's your last one. That's what all of those skulls and crossbones are about. You find that you don't go to waste that way.

This year, Alice and I will mark this occasion quietly at home. With some of my past health issues, she's been handed a shovel by more pudding-faced doctors and told to take me for one last trip to Disneyland more times than I can shake an ear trumpet at. They even advised me to skip Epcot the last time. Notwithstanding, I'm still kicking and don't intend to shuffle off this mortal coil voluntarily, or anytime soon. I'm perfectly content with not joining the Great Majority until I am completely spent. Forged in the snows of February, we November babies are resilient.

Speaking of ear trumpets, I am scheming for the next millstone birthday, my 65th in 2023. Since that half-decade mark is when the Social Security Administration officially declares you to be a discarded fossil, I'm already planning ahead.

Evelyn Waugh's personal ear trumpet 

At 65, the English author Evelyn Waugh (best known for the two wildly different works, Brideshead Revisited and The Loved One) officially declared himself to be "old." At that point, his son jokingly bought him an old fashioned Victorian ear trumpet, and Waugh carried it the rest of his life. He was known to brandish the thing and punctuate his conversations with it, more than once poking an argumentative adversary in the chest with it. More to the point, when he didn't want to listen to someone anymore, he simply pulled it away from his ear and pretended not to hear them at all. I'm already looking for one.

In truth, I've got better odds than most, which has been bourne out by my surviving multiple and bizarre surgical escapades and fallacious diagnoses over the last ten years. My father made it to 93, and still had his hair and his own teeth when he went. Meanwhile, my mother who is about to turn 90 in January (also in full possession of her choppers and coiffed hair) has already called to demand that I get a haircut. She does this once a week, and has ever since I was four.

If I had an ear trumpet, I'd simply claim I can't hear it anymore.


  1. I've admired your books and I admire your attitude demonstrated in this post. I'm almost 83 and still studying -- even acquired recently my
    own copy of Morals and Dogma … and I'm reading it! I'm staggered by the wisdom he showed in this book.

  2. I'm glad you're still here with us. This coming year will mark my "three score and ten," so from then on I'll be playing with house money. A whole new world of unpleasant surprises awaits you between 60 and 70. However, it beats the alternative.

    Mark Robbins

    1. Haven't I sufficiently used up my quota of surprises yet? Oh, I can't wait!

      As Henry Drummond said in Inherit The Wind when informed that he can neither curse nor mention God on the radio, "This promises to be a barren source of amusement."

  3. Happy birthday, Chris. South Korea (I happily lived there for 6 years) has a cultural tradition called "Hwangap". It involves a celebration among family when the parents reach the age of 60.

    For three reasons; 1. It takes 60 years to fully align with the Korean Zodiac sign you were born under. 2. Historically, before the advent of modern medicine, reaching 60 years old was cause for celebration, and 3. Hopefully, you had a few things in life wprked out by 60 and could share some wisdom with the younger people in your family and community.

    So keep sharing that Masonic wisdom Chris, and thanks!


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