My aunt Ruth and uncle Bob are visiting from Tennessee. Since their visit coincides with Ruth’s birthday, my mom and dad hosted the whole family for dinner at their house last night. One of many good things I will say for my family is that they like to celebrate and they know how to mark people’s milestones. We had a lovely dinner, complete with balloons, cake and presents, and it was a warm evening so we got to sit outside on the deck afterwards while the children ran freely as they would do in the wild.
It happened to be Aunt Ruth’s 64th birthday — I wouldn’t publicize her age on the internet except that it happens to be relevant to what I want to say here. At my dad’s suggestion Jason & I had put together a very short birthday CD for Aunt Ruth, consisting of just two songs: The Beatles’ When I’m 64, and a classic old Newfoundland folk song that gets all the old folks up dancing at weddings: Now I’m 64.
Ironically, Aunt Ruth’s birthday comes just a couple of weeks after the 64th birthday of Sir Paul McCartney, who penned “When I’m 64” when he was still a teenager. Even more ironically, this song celebrating a lifelong love is being revived everywhere just as Sir Paul’s second marriage is self-destructing in a way that’s spectacular even by celebrity-divorce standards.
To be fair to Paul McCartney (which we here in Newfoundland have had a hard time doing lately, but I suppose we could just jump on the bandwagon and blame Heather for the whole seal-hunt-protest thing) his first marriage was remarkably durable, by show-business standards. No doubt Linda would still be around needing and feeding him now that he’s 64, if she’d had any choice in the matter.
That’s the catch, though — we don’t always get a choice. Presumably both Sir Paul and the unknown folk-song writer chose 64 as the age to write about because it rhymes with lots of things, but when you’re young and in love, 64 seems a long ways out on the horizon. It strains credibility to believe you’ll last that long, much less that you’ll still love the same person then.
One more good thing about my family, apart from birthday parties: for the most part, they’re good at staying married for the long haul. Aunt Ruth got to celebrate her birthday with Uncle Bob, to whom she has been married almost exactly as long as I’ve been alive. My parents, who hosted the event, are a little ways past 64 and are about to celebrate 44 years together. The other representative of the senior generation at the party was my Aunt Bernice, who was married to my Uncle George since way back in the dawn of time. Like Linda McCartney and like the missing sweetheart in the “Now I’m 64” folksong, Uncle George died a few years ago — a poignant reminder to me that despite anyone’s best intentions, even the most long-lasting love affairs will eventually come to an end.
And that rather sobering thought brings me back to my recurring theme: life is short (even 64 doesn’t seem as far away as it used to!) and every moment, birthdays and warm summer evenings included, is there to celebrate. When I’m 64 I mean to look back on lots of celebrations and lots of good times with my wonderful family and with Jason, who I hope will still need me and feed me (and find my keys for me) when I’m 64 and long afterwards. And all good wishes to Aunt Ruth and to Paul McCartney, with many more good years still ahead for both, I hope! (And better luck with the next trophy wife, Sir Paul).