Sunday, July 15, 2012

I'm Sixty!

Tengo sesenta años. I am sixty years old. Literally, I have sixty years. If I have sixty years, they have been given to me. I didn’t take them. They were given to me. The breaths. The wonders. The miracles. They are a gift—a gift for which I am very thankful.
私は六十歳です。(Watashi-wa roku-ju nen desu.) In Japan, the 60th birthday is the occasion of kanreki, when five cycles of the Chinese zodiac have completed, and the person is said to be reborn. During kanreki, the birthday person has a party with a cake decorated with white cranes and red turtles. The white cranes are a symbol of 1,000 years, and the red turtle represents 10,000 years. A sleeveless red jacket is given to the 60-year old, representing a baby's jacket and a return to the beginning of life.
我六十岁。(Wǒ lìu shí suì.) In Chinese culture, the 60th birthday is a landmark life event and worthy of celebration. The Chinese consider the age of 60 to be the completion of one life cycle. Those who achieve the plateau of 60 years begin a new life cycle at that point. Traditionally, a 60th birthday party is a major occasion in Chinese culture. Parties often take place in restaurants, preceded by games of mahjong before everyone sits down to enjoy the birthday meal. An appropriate menu must include noodles, which represent a long life. (Does spaghetti alio e olio count?)
בן־ששים שנה (Ben shishim shanah.) In Hebrew, my age is stated as “a son of sixty years.” Birthdays are not universally celebrated in Judaism. It is more common to mark the yahrzeit or anniversary of the date of a person’s death, which I understand to be a remembrance of the legacy of that person and a celebration of his or her life.
No matter which language one uses to express the age of 60, it is still six decades, three score, six times ten, five times twelve. It still comes after 59 and before 61. In our youth-oriented society, it is common to play down one’s age. Jack Benny always claimed to be 39. “Sixty is the new forty.” “You’re only as old as you feel, look, think, eat, etc.”
Everyone wants to be young, but wisdom comes with age. An accumulation of marvelous experiences only comes with time.
I have no intention of downplaying the age to which I have attained. I have been given sesenta años. I am a son of shishim shanah. I am blessed and thankful for those years. I have lived and continue to enjoy a wonderful life with an excellent wife, loving family and friends, and uncountable blessings.
I was once asked why I didn’t dye my hair when it started to turn gray. I replied, “It took me 50 years to grow these gray hairs, and I’m not going to hide them.” In Proverbs it says this: “Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.”
I’m sixty, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

No comments: