Posts Tagged ‘when I’m sixty-four’

Doing the Limbo at 64

January 9, 2016

I remember back in the 1950s when I was growing up and attending Catholic school. They taught us that there’s a place called Limbo, where you go after death if you had never received baptism while living in the world. Although I am a mere Christian now, having been baptized in 1978 by own choice choice at the age of 27, it has been revealed to this protestant that there is indeed a place called Limbo.

But it is not actually a place; rather, it is a time, a time of life.

How do I know this?

I am in Limbo now.  I am learning that it is a stage of life through which you pass, before–not after– death, a kind of a nether time through which the maturing American sojourns, somewhere between ages 64 and 66.

When you turn 64, there are multiple signs that indicate you have arrived in Limbo. The first is, of course, remembering back to 1968 when the Beatles raised the profound question “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64?”

On one level, the song is profound for the aging adult, insofar as it raises the question of one’s life-status or love-condition in relation to one’s spouse, or, as they say nowadays, one’s “significant other” or lack thereof.

On another level, the question itself–about being needed and fed–is critical for the aging adult, insofar as it raises the question of one’s life-status in relation to “the System.”

You know the System I’m talking about, the one that–as we thought back in the day–would relegate us all to little ticky-tacky houses where we’d all look just the same.

And once you start seeing the signs that you are approaching–or perhaps have already arrived in– Limbo, suddenly the omens are all over the place, and very plain to see.

For example, as I happened to tune in, a couple of days ago, to Diane Rehm’s show, in which the Grand mistress of inside-the-beltway grapevine NPR confab discussed the big “R” word with Teresa Ghilarducci,

I learned that the assets so far accumulated by myself and my wife (six years younger than me) are, of course, not nearly enough to “make it through” the Retirement years, which is a special golden or rose-colored-glasses period  sometimes called the “rest of our life.”

Theoretically, our assets are not enough, especially with, you know, zero interest rates etcetera etcetera.

On the other hand, who the hell knows how much is enough?

Furthermore, this unstable scenario has been further destabilized by myself, yours truly, who recently, and oh-so-irresponsibly, decided to quit my job seven months before reaching the big SIX-FIVE road marker, because it was–as my body was daily communicating to me–wearing me out, after the past 45 years of uninterrupted work, the lion’s share of which was spent in construction and maintenance jobs.

There’s a reason (as I am discovering) that 65 is the big mile marker, the fork in the road where two paths diverge, as Robert Frost might have called it many and many a year ago.

In my case, I just didn’t quite make it that far, stopped short of the finish line with only seven months to go.

In one moment of time I morphed from one Bureau of Labor Statistical category to another. Whereas, I formerly was perhaps categorized as  employed but underemployed (being a college grad in a maintenance job), this statistical territory I now inhabit is a never-neverland somewhere between “unemployed” and “dropped-out of the labor force altogether–having given up on looking for another job!


The real hell of it is I’m still looking for a job, still striving to redeem myself from the stigma of being a labor-force dropout, still busting gut to add another few thousand bucks into that magic pot of IRA and/or 401K gold at the end of the Social Security rainbow.

Did I mention “gold”? Don’t even think about it, except all the online doomsayers are saying I need to buy it. But I wouldn’t know where to start. I mean, I’ve lived in the System all my life.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, where I’m filling blanks and checking boxes in online applications, the question becomes: who is going to hire a 64-year-old who just may be one of those  off-the-chart non-entitities who has “given up” on gainful employment, when there are multitudes of unemployed or underemployed 22-year-olds out there pounding the keyboard and the pavement looking for work?

Who? I ask you who?

Don’t think too hard. That’s been my problem all my life–thinking too much, and maybe writing too much too. (And if you believe that, I’ve got three novels, poised in cyberspace on the website linked below; they’re hanging there, suspended in electrons waiting to enhance your historical reading experience.)

So here I leave you with a closing anecdote. It is a dilemma wrapped in an enigma.

6:30 this morning, still dark. I just delivered my wife to her nursing job. I’m at the gas pump of a convenience store. I’m thinking. . .maybe I should go in there and ask for a job. Then I’m looking blankly at the gas pump as the digitals flash, and my eye wanders up to a sign on the gas pump. It says:

“Polar pop any size 69 cents”

And above that message is another little sign, with pictures of “Crown” cigarette packs, and an offer that smokers cannot refuse:

“$3.18 if you buy two.”

Do I really want to spend the last six months of my working life. . .



The Fab Four (reprise)

March 5, 2015

Of course all our baby boomer memory switches were tripped to the max last night, when we went to hear the Rain “Tribute to the Beatles.


Rain‘s first blast of the early song-hits immediately tapped into my personal storehouse of our collective boomer experience.

We were the first generation of TV kids. No one could have predicted what would happen with all us youngsters tracking on the same wavelength, although Marshall McLuhan did try, as the thing later unfolded, to analyze it.

Well this is what happened: the Beatles.

My first hearing of those Liverpool lads arrived through the transistor radio late one night in 1964. I was slumbering in bed at the end of another 7th-grade day; then suddenly there they were, filling the airwaves, filling my ears with wonder.

Nothing like it before that. The Beatles’ world-shaking harmony and jangly guitars suddenly carved a space in my brain that had not previously existed.

A few years later, I remember sitting in the front yard of our house in Baton Rouge, listening to Sgt. Pepper’s and wondering about its strangeness.

You know what I’m talking about.

Last night’s Rain revisitation, thanks to the excellent musicianship of that tributary ensemble, brought it all back. Of course our mounting audience appreciation culminated at the end when we all sang Hey Jude during the pre-programmed third or fourth encore.

This morning I was thinking about it all, reflecting, as it were, on the reflection.

Paul Simon’s poetic line from (Bookends: Old Friends) came to mind:

Time it was a time oh what a time it was. . . a time of innocence, a time of confidences. . .”

There we all were in a high-tech auditorium, a couple thousand Boomers. Pat, my wife of 35 years, was with me. Our daughter Kim had provided the tickets.

“Will you still feed me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four?”

Who’d’ve thought, back in 1968, that magical age of 64 would actually arrive? My 64th is this year.


There is so much that could be said about this, but I will highlight here only one aspect of the Beatles’ rise to the world’s first-ever domination of the pop music. Think about it this way:

McCartney/ Lennon

Good boy/ Bad boy

Good cop/ Bad cop

Jekyll/ Hyde

Ego/ Id

John Lennon was  the kid in the back of the room always acting out, being reprimanded by the teacher and ultimately ordered to sit in the corner with (imaginary) dunce hat on his head. The circumstance only provided a new venue in which he gladly improvised new manifestations of clownish rebellion. Why don’t we d-do it in the road?

Last night, on our hometown (Appalachian State University) stage here in Boone, Steve Landes of Rain performed the role with authentic Lennon irreverence.

Paul McCartney, on the other hand, perfectly embodied the choirboy persona: sharp and attentive, dutiful, ambitious, successful, the ladies’ man. He filled the world with silly love songs, in spite of John’s perpetually disruptive mischief. And the world loved Paul for it. He was always fixing a hole where the rain gets in, while John was spinning yarns about 4000 holes in Blackburn Lancashire, or some other inexplicable collection of mysteries.

These two together, Lennon and McCartney. . . well, you know the rest. So let’s all get up and dance to a song.

Much of the Beatles’ success was attributable to the wizardry of others behind the scenes during their intrusion into the musical universe, most notably Brian Epstein, manager. Later, George Martin, producer.

In last night’s masterful Rain production, those roles were represented on stage by keyboardist-sound engineer extraordinaire Chris Smallwood. He was the man behind the scenes– back in the shadows, stage right, fingering those  mysteriously familiar layers of revolutionary sound–horns a la Sgt. Pepper, strings, sitar, and all those other audible elements that were so curiously present in the later Beatle albums, but not easily identifiable back in the day.

The outcome of last nights recollective reverie is, methinks, represented in this:

Once there was a way to get back home.

And the words that ring out at the end:

“Boy, you’re gonna carry that weight a long time.”

Any boy who has ever played the game of love with his heartthrob girl and then lost her knows what “that weight” is.

All the while, from then ’til now, it’s getting very near end.

“It was twenty (or forty) years ago today,

Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play;

they been goin’ in and out of style,

but they’re guaranteed to raise a smile.”

And raise a smile they did, last night,  many and many a smile . . .

Glass Chimera