Ruminations on turning 50

Today is my birthday. Today, I turn 50.

And it isn’t so nifty.

Fifty is one of those magical round ages that mean nothing and everything at the same time.

Consciously I understand that it is just an arbitrary number that doesn’t really dictate anything about health or activity or life. Subconsciously, I understand that it means I have lived five decades. I actually remember Phyllis Diller.

While I could certainly live to be 100 or 110 depending on whether or not I eat broccoli, 50 more than likely is very close to mid life. I’m not really having a crisis. I don’t have any desire to get a convertible or have an affair. I just have a bucket list. It’s like at 50 they hand you the bucket and push you toward the last 50 years of your life.

Sure, 50 is the new 40. Back when people died at 60, 40-years-old was probably just as eye-opening.

I look into the mirror and I see a teenager with a puffy face. You know, like I just ate shellfish or something.

Image   Image Me and Charlie Hopper about 1981.

Please don’t fret. I’m taking it with a certain tongue-in-cheek quality.

In a conversation with my wife the other day, I came to a realization that 50 is kind of a marker in a human life. Mentally, the jig is up and you lose a certain youthful quality.

I know because I used to write obituaries. When you see that a deceased person reached 50, whether you say it out loud or not, you’re probably thinking, “He lived a pretty good life.” Whereas, if I had died yesterday at 49, readers would feel a tinge of regret. “He had so much left to give!” or “Tsk, tsk, too young.”

You know it’s true. I’ve passed a major hurdle in the sweepstakes of life. I’m sure that people will be sad when they hear of my passing, but from here on I “will have lived a pretty good life.”

For the record, Tom Cruise is 50. It just proves that crazy is a fountain of youth.

I haven’t exactly processed all of the event, but I do feel a certain significance of the half-century mark. When I turned 30, all the gifts were “over the hill” and black. The birthday cake was decorated in black and highlighted by a gravestone at one end.

This year there’s no joking about death. Plenty of old man jokes, but no gravestones.

Instinctively, people know the significance of 50. They know to leave it alone. It’s a magic age.

Now, I begin the game of cheating the Grim Reaper. I fully expect to live to 95, but that will take some work. I’m not 100 percent satisfied with the way my obituary will sound. So I need to make some changes in Act II.




  1. But a moment ago we were in class … “how ’bout them — whatever it was from Monty Python! I laughed and laughed…there is much laughter ahead!

  2. Happy Birthday Gus…I know the the exact feeling. I just turned 50 in April, and I must say it is a weird age to turn. I hop you acheive all that is on your bucket list for many years to come !

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