[Note from the author — The lyrics of “When I’m Sixty-Four” by Lennon/McCartney are throughout the article. Enjoy!]
In 1967, the Beatles came out with their wonderful album (yes, I mean LP, vinyl disk), “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band.” I was 12 years old, on the edge of entering my teenage years, in Maplewood, N.J., and I saved my money for this album with an incredibly intricate, psychedelically colorful cover. While my parents tolerated (barely) parts of the album, the one song they enjoyed was the honky-tonk “When I’m 64!” In many ways, it was a musical bridge for my parents and me, in which our generations met each other. Now and then I would hear my mom and dad whistle the tune at various times of the day as they did chores around the house or while driving us to various activities.
Today, I am a combination of my parents. And, what Beatles Lennon and McCartney foretold is coming to pass: I’ve lost some hair, thanks to a natural receding hairline; I’m fairly certain my partner would lock the door at quarter of three in the morning; he needs a reminder about Valentine’s Day, birthdays, and the like; and I buy my own bottle of wine. He is handy in mending a fuse, though neither of us knit. I am the cook in the family, and he is the dishwasher. And, while I do not have grandchildren (yet) bouncing on my knee, I enjoyed bouncing both children upon my knees. I savored the time when they’d tumbled off of my back as a bucking bronco onto the family room’s carpeted floor when they were young. I still tease my 18-year-old son that I can run faster than he can (yes, this is a challenge).
I am in the middle of my journey, my pilgrimage of this life. This morning I was told by my “younger” partner that I was “nearing retirement,” though being a scholar-activist does not pay much in terms of a retirement account. While I laugh and make great goofy faces with younger parents and their infants, I sigh and tell them I used to have young children too, oh, 20 years ago. Or, when I receive emails from abroad from a dad who is on the cusp of leaving his wife who has recently given birth in his journey of coming out, I gulp and remember that I did something similar 13 years ago. And, those gay men who were my mentors in coming out, demanding justice where I used to teach, struggling to figure out how to live with another self-assured American male, are now in retirement on a faraway island in the Pacific, Palm Springs or have recently died, including my dad.
While not a grandparent (yet), I realize that the Beatles song that I sang lustily when I was 12 years old is starting to ring true in my 50s. Who I am today is so not in the realm of who I thought I would be at that age, which is a good thing. I find myself giving more talks and keynote speeches on being a gay dad to young and younger audiences of people considering the possibility of parenthood as out lesbians or gays. I sat down (finally) with a financial adviser to see if I’m doing alright for my retirement. And, I am attending “Breaking Generation Silent” on Saturday, April 2, 2011, at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Friday Center, learning about the justice issues facing aging pioneers of the LGBTQ movement. Then on Sunday morning, with my partner driving and dogs in the back of his Cherokee Jeep, we’ll simply go for a ride in the bucolic Carolina back roads, chatting with my kids via cell phone, or whistling a song that I learned when I was a young boy in New Jersey. : :