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Turning 55: A universe-gone-mad moment.

Byline: Bob Welch The Register-Guard

There are moments in life when two disparate entities intersect so awkwardly that we're left to assume the universe has gone mad.

For me, one such moment occurred recently at a restaurant when I realized that the song from the speakers was a reggae version of Bread's "Everything I Own."

Are you kidding me? The fusing of the 1972 pop song with a Caribbean twist was no less jarring than imagining a dreadlocked Fred McMurray singing backup to Bob Marley on "Soul Rebel."

Another universe-gone-mad moment occurred when I realized this: I turn 55 today.

Impossible. Fifty-five isn't an age for someone my age. It's a speed limit. A linebacker's number. The miles until the next rest stop on Interstate 5. But not an age.

And yet I opened the mail and there was a come-on from AARP, a credit-card-looking membership tease with literally my name on it.

I'm being tracked down by Father Time, a guy with the play-dumb smarts of Columbo whose trench coat is always on my tail. He knows where I live - more importantly, how long I've lived.

No, I want to say. You've got the wrong guy, pal. You're looking for a guy from the past wearing wingtips and smoking a pipe. A little thin up top. A gut oozing over his belt like the top of a bran muffin.

You're looking for the four on-the-go guys in the Flomax commercials with those miserable "before" looks on their faces. The guy going back for seconds on tapioca pudding at Sizzler. Some couch potato who thinks exercise is hitting the mute button.

Me? Yeah, so I've got a bad wheel and, for now, must walk instead of run. I need to lose a few pounds. And, yeah, I am a grandfather twice over. But 55? This is a case of mistaken identity.

I'm hip. I made a nine-minute iMovie last weekend. I blog. I Google. And though I've never twittered, I at least know what it is - the apparent belief, expressed through the Internet, that we should update the world on everything we do every single moment. (Like: "Just went again. Fourth time in an hour." - Signed, Flomax Guy No. 3")

"Hey," She Who's Not Turning 55 Yet says, "you'll qualify for a free senior drink at Taco Bell."

Like that's going to take away the sting of being an age that's sprinkled throughout the obits like bacon bits on a tossed salad. An age that reminds you of pharmacies and guys on cruise ships wearing shorts and dark socks.

You turn 55 and the next thing you know you'll be on the dance floor at a niece's wedding and onlookers will be taking bets as to whether you're being funny or actually trying to resurrect "The Freddie."

You'll be walking a poodle, watching "Lawrence Welk" reruns and taking the time to hang a green tennis ball from the ceiling of your garage so, when your car's windshield touches it, you'll know when to stop. (Like, otherwise, you might crash through into the family room. "Uh, whoops. Sorry.")

And yet who knows for whom the Taco Bell senior discount tolls?

Then, amid such consternation, comes a moment of epiphany. You're visiting your soon-to-be-82-year-old mother when she reminds you that she leaves Sunday for three weeks in Mexico.

Nothing she's ever done before. Just an adventure, a spur-of-the-moment offer from a friend. "And the great thing is," she says. "Her son does all the barbecuing!"

By the way, she says, shortly before heading off to swim, "We've got our same moorage spot back (at Fern Ridge). Can't wait to sail."

Hmmm. Perspective. Appreciating where we're at in life instead of lamenting where we're not.

Suddenly, you're more chipper than the Flomax guys in their "after" moods. I'm 55. It's party time. Strike up the (reggae) band. We're going to Taco Bell!

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Title Annotation:City/Region Columnist
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Feb 3, 2009
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