I read the stories in Crow’s Feet because I like to know what younger people are thinking. Right now there seems to be a wave of anxiety among Baby Boomers, as you turn 60 or 70.
I turned 79 and 1/2 this week, and decided since I’m closer to my 80th birthday than any other, I’ll just be 80. It’s the age of Wisdom: if you don’t have it by 80, you never will. And if you have any, you need to give it away.
So let me tell you about 70, and what my Seventies meant to me.
Physically, it was hitting the wall.
Professionally, the end of the line.
Creatively, the greatest outburst of my life.
After 50 years of working as a journalist, I quit and began writing what I wanted to write. I published more than 100 articles, reviews and interviews, online and in print. I published my memoir. I wrote an oral history of my co-op building. And with a painful bow, I submitted to the rigors of scholarly research and managed to get several works of literary criticism published in peer-reviewed journals.
For the first time in my life, I joined a church of my own choosing and immersed myself in its spiritual life. For the last time in my life, I signed up for a course of study — a four-year Episcopal course in Education for Ministry. I became a prayer minister and led a study group on racism. I preached a sermon. I became a reporter for the church newsletter, seeking out interesting people to profile.
After thinking about it for years, I offered a course in American Culture designed for immigrants. I taught it for multiple years, and many of the students returned year after year, so I began teaching it a different way each time. We did American culture by state, by region, by historical epoch, by race; American culture in song, in poetry, in film, in fiction.
We traveled, my wife and I, to Japan and Korea, where most of my immigrant students came from. We also traveled to Germany — a country I’d been terrified to visit —and to the homeland of my ancestors, Holland.
I flew up to Heaven in a vision, and asked if my room was ready. An angel in a nurse’s uniform turned me away at the door. “You need to go back,” she said, “and pay more attention to other people.” I floated back to earth in a snowstorm.
A lifelong introvert, I made fitful, halting efforts to follow her instruction. But recently it struck me that paying more attention to other people could solve my own worst problem: chronic loneliness. I had battled loneliness for most of my life, but had to do it alone.
Now, I get by with a little help from my friends, and family — -a loving wife, children and grandchildren.
I mean, who knew? — Copyright 2021 by Tom Phillips