At the top of Chimney Rock in October 2011 (Photo by Susan Harris Lipes)

When I get older losing my hair,
Many years from now,
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings bottle of wine?

If I’d been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door,
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I’m sixty-four?

The Beatles released “When I’m 64” in June, 1967.  To a then-19 years old reporter for The Roanoke Times, thinking about turning 64 was fantasy at best.  I never expected to make it to 30, much less 64.

My father died at 29, killed in an industrial accident.  His four brothers all died before their 30th birthdays.  Dying young was a tradition in our family.

Almost didn’t make it to 20. Crashed my Mustang into a rock wall at 4 in the morning.  Head injury, broken bones, etc.  Survived.

Tried to make the legacy of dying young come true several other times: Close calls, scrapes with death.  Cheated the grim reaper more times than deserved.

Reaching 30 brought celebration.  Broke the curse.  The decade that followed brought more brushes with death, more broken appointments with the angel of death.  My bones creak, metal detectors buzz from all the non-OEM parts in my body and it takes longer to get going in the morning.

No big deal.

When I hit 60 , friends started saying: “slow down. Take it easy. You’ll live longer.”

That’s what they don’t understand.  I’ve lived longer than I ever expected.  Every day past 30, every birthday for the past 44 years, has been a blessing.  One cannot go through life afraid.  Each day on this earth is a gift to be enjoyed and lived to the fullest.

I will climb aboard my motorcycle this morning and head into town for coffee with friends, followed by a birthday lunch with my mother at her assisted living apartment.  Then I will ride, enjoy the day and — later — celebrate with Amy.

When I’m 64?  Nah. I am 64 and loving every minute of it.

(Song lyrics from “When I’m 64,” by Paul McCartney)