I turned 70 recently and still don’t feel older. That day will come, I suppose, but other than moments like this, when I actually take the time to stop and think about it, I don’t pay much attention to age. I’m lucky that way. I know some people who dread every birthday and can’t stand the thought of getting older. Not me. I’m just happy to be here.
I’m not sure why I have this perpetual optimism about things and welcome each passing year with open arms, but I think my father’s death when I was little has something to do with it. As tragic as it was, his death when I was four bestowed benefits on me that I appreciate more and more as I get closer to that great yawning abyss beyond.
I grew up knowing, not just in my head but also in my bones, that we’re all just hanging by the thinnest of threads and that life can be gone at any moment. Experiencing the worst trauma of my life when my life had barely begun has helped me overcome the fear of the silence and blackness that one day will take us all. It’s helped me see the value of living large, savouring the moment, and appreciating the humour in it all.
“To enjoy the flavor of life, take big bites,” the futurist and novelist Robert Heinlein wrote. I agree.
Mind you, as many positives as there are to living large and taking big bites, there are consequences. Leaving a secure and well-paying government job can wreak havoc on a future pension. Had I not left my government job years ago to take a chance on making it as a creative entrepreneur, I’d have a pretty good pension today. What I have, though, from those restless younger years is knowing I tried and, in some cases, succeeded and, in other cases, failed to achieve what I wanted.
I’m now discovering that wisdom, self-awareness, and a sense of humour are the luxuries we gain from our journey. “Give me the luxuries of life,” the architect Frank Lloyd Wright said, “and I will willingly do without the necessities.”
On September 1, when the invitation came in from my neighbours to attend a margarita party in their backyard that night to mark Jimmy Buffett’s passing, I didn’t hesitate to accept.
It had been a while since I’d had a margarita, and I remembered how delicious they were as I sipped it (who am I kidding, as I gulped it). It didn’t hurt that my friend’s backyard looks more like a Caribbean retreat than your typical Fredericton backyard. We listened to and talked about Buffett’s music, sharing stories about the lifestyle it symbolized, how it affected us and when and why his lyrics were most relevant to us.
It was a tough night for one of the guests, Rosie, who referred to herself as a “Parrot Head,” the term for a fan of Jimmy Buffett’s music and lifestyle that he promoted. Dressed as if she had just flown in from Montego Bay, Rosie shared terrific stories about attending Jimmy Buffett concerts and their famous tailgate parties. I’d always wanted to attend one of those and enjoyed hearing her describe what they were like and the peaceful and fun vibe that everyone had. I particularly liked the colourful parrot earrings she was wearing.
As the night went on, so did my memories of Buffett’s music and how it was the soundtrack for several trips to the Caribbean. I couldn’t help but wonder what Jimmy Buffett thought about getting older. Reading the newspaper account of his passing that morning, I was shocked that he was 76, only six years older than me. He always seemed so young.
Walking home after the party, I kept thinking about how Buffett’s music reflects the luxury of living large, not in spending vast amounts of money but rather in being authentic, appreciating the moment and welcoming with open arms all that the moments of life hold in store for us.
No doubt, Jimmy Buffett would agree. So would my dad. So would Rosie.