My favorite quote from the English poet Robert Browning is about age. “What’s a man’s age? He must hurry more, that’s all; Cram in a day, what his youth took a year to hold.” I can tell you a bit about age as I do have some experience in this matter. Time is relentless and it can be cruel but your age is what you make of it. Last Thursday I had one of those days that blurred my perception of time and age.
The older I get the harder it is for me to guess what a person’s age is. Probably because I still think I’m 20 years old. It actually surprises me to learn a person’s age, I’m almost always wrong when I try to guess. This year I’ve been playing softball on my company’s team. I’m past my prime softball years to say the least, but I’m there mostly to socialize and participate in a healthy activity. I was a little frustrated at first because I felt I wasn’t playing up to my ability. But I realized as I was driving home from one of the games that the last time I played softball was about 12 years ago. On top of that, the average age of my teammates is probably 30, that makes me 20 years older than most of them.
After the game last Thursday I asked one of my new friends on the team if he wanted to have a beer with the rest of us. He said he couldn’t because he was driving. “Good for you, that’s smart” I said. Then he came a little closer to me and said “I’m only 19”. This was the first of several occurrences that blurred my perception of age.
On the way home from the game I listened to a message on my cell phone, it was from one of my college roommates. It turned out that another one of our roommates was flying in for the weekend. His son had accepted a commission at the Coast Guard Academy and was starting orientation that weekend. They would be staying at my friend’s house. I called him back and made plans to meet them. I couldn’t wait to meet up with my buddies and catch up on old times, but I couldn’t believe that one of my old roommates had a son old enough to be in the Coast Guard.
When I got home that same night I learned that my 17 year old had gone to Mohegan Sun with her best friend and her family. I was waiting up for her to come home and started watching a George Carlin Tribute. It was a compilation of his past routines and I remembered most of them from when they first aired. I remembered when he hosted SNL for the first time for their premier show in 1975. I remember when he was so controversial that he was arrested for his famous “Seven words you can never say on TV” routine that lead to arrest, prosecution – and even a Supreme Court judgment.
As I was sitting there enjoying my memories of George Carlin my daughter called in. She told me that some guy just gave her and her friend tickets to a sold out Billy Joel concert for free. Apparently this guy’s friends didn’t show and instead of wasting the tickets he was kind enough to share them.
She held up her phone and I heard the roar of the crowd as Billy Joel played the “Piano Man”. This instantly brought back memories of the first time I saw him in concert. It was over 30 years ago during his 1976 ‘Turnstiles’ tour and I was in college at the time. Me and my roommates, the same guys I was going to visit, saw him in a small auditorium that held about 3,000 people. It was an awesome concert and I remember exactly how I felt as he played. He sat at his grand piano dressed in a black suit, white shirt and tie and played for more than 3 and ½ hours including 3 or 4 encores.
She said she thought the concert was over and hung up. Then she called me back two minutes later and said “He’s playing another song”! She was surprised he kept playing; I told her I wasn’t surprised. I was glad that she remembered to call me and I was glad I had those memories to share.
What’s a man’s age? I can remember exactly what it was like to actually be good at playing softball. I can remember exactly what it was like at that Billy Joel concert 30 years ago. I had fun playing softball last Thursday and I had fun meeting my college roommate’s son last weekend. What’s my age? I’m old enough to know how great it is to be the age I am.