16 or 61: Age is just number

Published 1:04 am Wednesday, July 17, 2013

If you spin 61 around, it becomes 16. That is what occurred to me as I stirred my coffee this morning. Of course, there are 45 numbers between the two, or in my case 45 years.

“Can it really be 45 years since I turned 16?” I whispered as I settled into my favorite chair at my bedroom window. “I guess times flies when you are having fun or at least doing your best to mostly have fun.”

“You are 16 on the 16th,” I remember my Daddy saying to me on that long ago birthday.

And, I remember thinking I was pretty close to grown. Oh, but now I know I was so far from anything resembling grown.

Today, I’m 61 on the 16th, and surely, I’ve reached the destination of “grown.” Although I am not exactly sure I understand what the word implies.

On one of his birthdays, probably sometime in his 60s, my daddy had a conversation with me about getting older. He told me he looked older on the outside, but inside in many ways he felt the same way he did when he was a teenager.

Maybe at that time in his life he wondered what being grownup meant as much as I do today. I know the look on his face that day told me the teenager in him was looking out through his eyes wondering how he got there so quickly.

That thought got me wondering what my 16-year-old self might say to my 61-year-old self and vice versa. I think first we would just stare at each other, one noting the wrinkles around the eyes and the other seeing the pimples on the cheeks.

“Well what happens to me over the next 45 years?” younger me would ask. “Tell me what I grow up to be because I think a lot about how my life will turn out.”

“Why are you worried about that at your age?” present-day me would say. “Go out and have fun being 16; let how it will turn out take care of itself.”

Teenage me would smile, thinking she was humoring an old lady who was out of touch with what it was like to be young. Older me would return the smile knowing even if she could she wouldn’t spoil the adventure by telling the girl what was coming her way in the years ahead.

What I would tell her is something I wish I’d understood sooner, but know I could not grasp until I had some living behind me.

It is expressed well in a quote from a book by Barbara Brown Taylor. They are the words of one of her friends explaining why he knew his life was full and valuable.

“You have everything you need to be human. There is nothing outside of you that you still need — no approval from authorities, no attendance at temple, no key hidden truth in the tenth chapter of some sacred book. In your life right now, God has given you everything you need to be human.”

At 61, I have everything I need to be human — I like that, and it only took me about 45 years to begin to realize it.

Yep, flip 61 and it becomes 16. What an interesting trip it’s been between those two numbers.

Oh, and 16-year-old me, “You grow up to be happy.”