I mentioned to a friend last night that I’d be turning sixty-two today. “That makes you old enough to be my father!” she replied cheerfully. So it does, and it also helps to explain why most people sooner or later reach a point when their birthday feels like just another day. I think I may have gotten there last year. Mrs. T and I were spending the week in a rented condo a few steps away from the Gulf of Mexico, where I found myself reflecting with a surprising lack of urgency about turning a year older:
I was preparing to make my debut as a stage director a year ago, and this year I’m working on my second play. And while I’ve no idea what I’ll be doing next year, I’m not losing any sleep worrying about it. That’s not to say I don’t have any worries, merely that I’m prepared—at least for now—to take things as they come. Today I’m going to write a Wall Street Journal column about Ben Hecht. Tonight Mrs. T and I plan to watch the sun set and get ourselves a good dinner. Tomorrow will have to take care of itself. It always does, one way or another.
Today, alas, Mrs. T and I are in different places, both of them cold and damp. She’s up in Connecticut and I’m stuck in Manhattan, rehearsing the Alley Theatre’s production of Satchmo at the Waldorf. We won’t be seeing each other again until Sunday. It doesn’t matter, though: we’re always together, even when we’re apart.
And then what? Well, I’m not writing a new play or a new book, not just yet. I’m firmly planted in the present, more than content to rehearse Satchmo and hit my Wall Street Journal deadlines. Between all that and Mrs. T’s upcoming double lung transplant, I really don’t think I need to be taking on any more experiential freight, at least for now.
That doesn’t mean I’m not on the qui vive for the possibility of adventure. Two weeks ago, after all, I hadn’t the slightest idea that I’d be directing Satchmo in Houston. What’s more, I have a fairly long list of things that I want to do, and it’s not unreasonable to expect that I’ll get the chance to do at least a few of them between now and the coming of the Dark Rendezvous. Still, it won’t break my heart if I don’t check any more items off my list. I have at last what I always wanted—a happy marriage and a fulfilling career—and I need no more to be content. As I observed in this space two birthdays ago:
I suppose I could spend the rest of my life running in place, but I’m pretty sure I won’t. And if such should prove to be my fate, then at least I’ll be running in tandem—which is, after all, what matters most.
May all of you be at least as lucky when you turn sixty-two.
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Peggy Lee sings “The Folks Who Live on the Hill,” by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II, in 1981. The arrangement is by Nelson Riddle: