Will you still love me when I’m 64?


“Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four?”

The Beatles released “When I’m 64” on the Sgt. Pepper album just two weeks before I turned 14 in 1967. That was fifty years ago — a half century almost to the day. Being 64 was unimaginable. My parents were 50 and 52. Now th‍‍‍at‍‍‍ was old! I was 14, gonna be young forever, and didn’t know what aches and pains are. Ahhh, yes!

George Bernard Shaw is credited with saying “Youth is wasted on the young.” Maybe so. I’d love to have my 14-year-old body back again, but not my 14-year-old head. Actually life was pretty good and I was happy in many ways — but not so much in others. All kids that age are grappling with identity, hiding zits, and testing the limits of power and independence. And of course sexuality. Oh, God, no! I’m not going there again!

It’s hard enough being a straight kid, I’m sure. Being a gay kid in 1967 was a dark, lonely and scary place. If nothing else, most straight kids can verbalize their interests and feelings. The stories may be lies but at least they can be told. Gay kids in 1967 — this one, anyway — kept it all bottled up. As the years went by it became excruciating. I didn’t come out until age 22.

My husband and I were reflective the other night. He talked about the point when you realize that most of your life is behind you. When you’re young, there’s no end in sight. Life stretches forever into the future. But now… To be even just half way through my life I’d have to live to be 128. I think that’s probably unlikely!

I don’t say this to be fatalistic or maudlin. It’s good, I think, to take honest and realistic stock of where you are in life, what you’re doing, and where you’re going. One’s spot on the cosmic timeline — “You Are Here” — is important. I’ve lost my chance to try out for the Olympics, but there are a zillion other options going forward.

On balance I’m very satisfied with where life has brought me. I turned my personal pain from the closet into social awareness and political activism — which I’ve sustained off and on to this day. I’m very proud of this. Far too many people lose their youthful idealism and become cynical as they get older. I guess that’s how so many counter-culture progressives from the Woodstock generation ended up Tea Partiers and alt-rightists.

‍‍‍‍‍‍But like everyone I’ve also made my share of mistakes as well. A few still pain me deeply.

I’m guessing this is late 60s.

And speaking of the closet, probably the happiest moment of my entire life was marrying David in Central Park on Sunday morning, October 5, 2014. Never, ever, in my wildest hopes and dreams did I think this could happen! Certainly not when I was that struggling 14-year-old kid.

Reflections at 64

As I turn 64 today, I find myself reflecting on the past and looking ahead. It’s time for that taking stock I mentioned.

First, with respect to social activism, I feel I’m losing my bearings politically. I’m way too caught up in the high drama spectacle in Washington, owing perhaps to Watergate when I watched those hearings gavel to gavel. I find events today captivating and addictive, like a soap opera. There’s a new cliffhanger literally everyday. The camera zooms in as Trump taps out his latest tweet. The organ swells and the announcer says “Tune in tomorrow for the next episode of As the World Churns.” Problem is, real ‍‍‍politics — the stuff that ultimately matters — is happening elsewhere with the working class. I need to focus back on this.

In my Junior year I helped organize a chapter of the Student Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (SMC) at my high school. I don’t think my parents were too thrilled and I know the school administration wasn’t! I later had to leave and finish high school elsewhere.
In the early 70s I was a volunteer supporting the United Farmer Workers (UFW) national boycott of grapes, iceberg lettuce and Gallo Wines. I later worked briefly for the UFW as a paid organizer. Here I’m pictured while leafletting customers at a local grocery store.
My Dad took this picture around 1973-74. In those days I was working at a community youth-run free clinic and emergency hotline. The agency — called Head Help — provided a wide variety of services and spin-off programs including a recycling center and food co-op. My post was Education Coordinator. I edited a monthly newsletter, maintained a library and spoke to schools, churches and community groups. The presentation I remember most vividly was to over 150 police officers and sheriff’s deputies the evening of Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre.

I’m interested in the spiritual side of life now as well. Not in the religious sense, but more the philo‍‍‍sophical sense — being present and peaceful in the moment. Most of us spend our lives consumed in thinking, thinking, thinking… endless thinking. I’m not talking about the productive thinking involved in problem solving, political action, and the rest. I’m talking about the pointless repetitive replay of past events in our heads or worry about the future that isn’t here yet. The stuff that swirls in our heads at 3 a.m. when we can’t sleep. This thinking accomplishes nothing and ultimately we miss life. We’re too distracted.

Of course the body turning 64 brings my attention to health and fitness too, especially after falling a week ago. This is definitely an area where some improvement is in order. I’ll let you know how it goes!

And finally, if I’m ever going to visit the Great Wall I’d better get my butt in gear. I’m not getting any younger or more agile. If you’re not familiar with what I’m talking about, check out Dr. William Edgar Geil & the Great Wall of China on my website.

Finally, there’s the song that gave rise to my thoughts today. This version of the Beatle’s classic was a class project I found posted at Vimeo. Enjoy!

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