In a couple of days, I’ll be turning fifty. 50.
I am told by my predecessors, I should be receiving my first AARP pamphlet in the mail any minute.
Wow! Fifty. Here I am.
I remember being 28 years old, working at the Fourth Street Bar and Grill. A group of men and women were standing at the bar holding shot glasses. They were Marriott employees, my colleagues, and so I approached and asked them what they were celebrating.
“Armand just turned fifty!” Janine announced.
I had thought about turning fifty before, thought about it as a young man because I always felt like I was older than my age suggested.
As a young person, I listened to jazz music not only because of the rhythms, the sounds and the saxophone, but also because there was wisdom in it, pain and suffering, and it soothed some part of my soul.
I had even told my best friend’s father when he had asked, what I would write. I did not know. I probably wouldn’t really publish my first book until I was fifty, I told him. I thought I should live my life first and learn some lessons along the way. Only then would life inform me.
“Wow, fifty.” I said to Armand. “Happy birthday, man”
Armand’s eyes settled on me, something deeply resentful in them, and he said, “Yeah, it’ll happen to you, too.”
It was a funny thing to say. Everyone laughed.
I thought at the time, he had misinterpreted my wow, thought perhaps, I was one of those young bucks who believed “old” people were pathetic and should be sent to a remote mountain never to be heard from again.
I wasn’t thinking that though. There was no sympathy in the statement either, but an appreciation for his journey and for his arrival.
You see Armand knew things that I did not know at the time. Life had taken hold of him by the lapel and shook his understanding of life, I was sure of it. He had reached a point where he could forgive himself for all the stupid things he had done as a young man to impress or irritate people. He had reached a point of perspective, a point where perhaps he did not know everything, but he knew enough to tell the difference between what was living and what was not living. At least I believed these things would happen by the time a person turned 50.
I was not offering sympathy for his 50 years. I was celebrating them.
And, as I sit here at my office desk, enjoying the simple things, listening to Duke Ellington and John Coltrane play “In a Sentimental Mood,” I celebrate the memory of Armand’s birthday once more.
Happy birthday to everyone celebrating their 50th birthday this year.
1968, woop woop!
We have arrived!