By Mark David Blum, Esq.
FIVE-OH. That number means many things to many people. To some, saying “five-oh” refers to police. Others might think of a baseball score. For me, “five-oh” has been taking on a whole new meaning. It means fifty; an age I am soon to hopefully attain. Just saying “fifty” or “five-oh” leaves a tinny dry aftertaste in my mouth. I loathe to say it while I appreciate being able to do so. The alternative would, ummm, leave me breathless.
It isn’t just the aftertaste. The sound of the words themselves spoken from my own mouth bring back that wonderful fingernails fleeting and swooshing across a chalkboard. I once had a friend in high school who would torture me with that. “I am about to be fifty.” Hopefully saying it is not jinxing it and I am still trying to enjoy the few rays of sunshine left before I do turn fifty.
I have heard the jeers from those who have surpassed this milestone. I feel the fears and I don’t like them. I don’t like what 50 signifies. At one level, it is a point at which you are what you were destined to become and there is little more you can do to change the outcome. A lifetime of experiences and travails relatively limit my options. Yet being fifty means elder statesman level. To my elders, I am a mere child. To the rest of the world, I am an old man.
Yeah, the approaching big five oh is not going down well. I loathe opportunities lost and squandered. I rue my bad judgment and mistakes. There are a thousand do-overs I wish I had but never will. I probably owe more apologies than are owed to me. I still have time to fix that. A million scars collected over a life of battles; each a lesson learned well.
Turning fifty means you have to stop and look at yourself hard in the mirror. Yikes! Besides not being that once upon a time I used to be whatever, there will never be that whatever again. Read that sentence twice. It cuts like a knife.
For the record, my forties sucked. Two weeks into my 40’s is the moment I gave up a lifetime’s work. I threw it all away. Most of the decade was a race to hitting bottom and then fighting my way back up the food chain. It has been a hard and bitter decade.
Frankly, I started this essay way too soon as the day itself is months off still. But the crushing weight of the impending event pushed it out prematurely. Turning fifty is not an event that happens overnight. It is a process. You have to in part let go of your youth and that is hard and cold as a Syracuse winter storm. I already sense its rolling thunder.
What is it like to turn fifty? I have no idea. For the first time in my life I think I am surprised to have lived this long. Privately I doubted I would make it this far. Make no mistake, I am indeed thankful for turning fifty as opposed to never turning fifty. I just did not expect it to come down on me so fast. “Fast” is an understatement; seriously, one day you are happy go lucky, and then one day you are an old man. I don’t feel old. Society has definitely aged me more than I am ready to be. But rules are rules and fifty rules.
For those who would sing the “you’re never too old to …” song, you have no idea to be almost fifty and ponder the question of Halloween and trick or treating and partying. Its over. My favorite holiday is over for my age group. What rational reason is there for a fifty year old to be either dressing up or partying on when he can be home and warm watching television? (Not that I would know anything about that). I am just saying, turning fifty has its landmarks and hallmarks but it also means it is time to stop foolishness because you are too old to get away with it anymore. We all know how much fun it is, but you have had enough. Be fifty, not fifteen is not a slogan I ever anticipated championing.
Turning fifty may be my so-called Indian Summer. It may be my one last chance at warmth and carefree sunshine before the long slow cold decline into death. ‘Death’ is not a subject I ever took seriously, except for those moments I danced with the devil. But now it is a real possibility and could happen tomorrow or not for 30 or more years.
When you are in your forties, you feel the aging process but still feel young and vibrant. Turning fifty means slamming on the brakes, driving the speed limit, and perhaps cowering in fear. Life can change so hard, so fast and so must be protected with constant vigilance. Now is not the time to die, I am still having too much fun and have responsibilities for others. It would be quite inappropriate and bad timing. But now lurking at the back of your mind is that all the odds you beat thus far are narrowing quickly. Try getting a health insurance plan; they don’t exist.
I am sure I have many more meals of humble pie still to go. There is still penance to be paid and forgiveness sought. Nothing should be forever and anything can be fixed. I am not yet done swinging for the fences and still have some good pitches left in me.
But shit, I am soon going to be fifty and I earned it. Don’t laugh. Check your own watches. See the hands flying around the dial. You will one day realize and say, ‘now I know what he was talking about’.
… to be continued, hopefully.