The Sports section lay abandoned on the kitchen table as I gathered up my coffee and the morning news. I was engaged immediately by the photo of Tom Watson titled “Living the Dream.”
A charming smile on his handsome face and golf ball in hand, he doffed his hat just after he birdied the 16th and 17th, moving closer to a possible win at the British Open. But the real “fairy tale,” as it was described, was his upcoming 60th birthday on Sept. 4. It was evidently a stellar performance — all the way to a missed putt, which led to second place and infused deep sentiment for the old codger’s game. Fifty-Nine, WOW! sort of dismisses the annals of a great career.
A good golf story, but I came away with an uneasy feeling.
What has happened to middle age, that bridge that floats between youth and agism, that special period cynics often refer to as the movable doom, mid-life crisis, or the period 10 years from whatever current birthday we celebrate after 40? Has the era of the baby boomer gone from zero to 60 without shifting gears?
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Life is more than a timeline with labels. Age is measured in different ways, according to specific expectations. Physical prowess is most often defined by the requirements of the sport. Mental acuity must meet the demands of the game. The proven rate of aging is influenced by dozens of factors such as nature, nurture, genetics, environment, attitude and personal care. By now, everyone has seen or received the birthday card: “If I knew I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.”
That population explosion conceived between 1946 and 1964 has brought us a special gift: the very visible pattern of change that we seldom talk about. The Boomer babies rid us of age-appropriate behavior and showed us style, beauty and comfort. They advanced the worldwide technological revolution with the personal computer and reached for wonderful instruments of communication by cell phone, I-pod and Tivo. They fought and fight for us in Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan. They have produced heretofore unheard-of medical breakthroughs and influenced music, art and literature with a new genre. They are religious, spiritual and doers of good.
These are millions who have worked their way through the system and have created a better life for others. They will see us through good times and bad. It’s the way we do things in this country.
I was inspired by Tom Watson’s story — not because he could still swing a golf club at 59, but because it might well be that he and other boomers have eradicated middle age. Yes, 60 is the new 40.