John Force and I now have two things in common.
Mr. Force comes to northwest Ohio like clockwork, every June and August. Better look fast, though. When he’s here, he travels at about 320 mph.
He is a professional drag racer. Think NASCAR without the turns. He drives an 8,000-horsepower hot rod from a standing start to a finish line 1,000 feet away, reaching that 320 mph in a shade over four seconds.
As for me? I used to drag-race a 150-horsepower station wagon. My best speed was 75 mph in about half a minute.
John Force is the reigning champion in his category. He has won 15 titles. I won about 15 trophies and a windbreaker that no longer fits. I’m thicker now. Older, too, which brings me to our second commonality.
In a TV commercial, Mr. Force — who talks as fast and as intensely as he races — says he’s 61 years old.
This month, I turned 60. If life were a drag race, I’m hoping the finish line moves farther away.
Turning 60 means I survived my 50s. Ten years ago, Tom Otwell, a spokesman for AARP, told me the 50s “is often the most complex decade in life.”
Mr. Otwell explained: “This is the time when people experience major life event changes — death of parent, death of spouse, divorce, dealing with major illness, children grown and gone, becoming grandparents, remarriage and beginning new families, responsibilities for caring for aging parent, loss of employment, and so on.”
In my case, most of those changes didn’t happen. But I’ve experienced children grown and gone, and caring for an aging parent. My reaction to the children alternates between pride and worry; my mother, just plain worry.
As I review the past decade, I think back to work, family, faith, and activities, and the highs and lows that come with each of their interrelated parts.
I understand now, more than I did when I was freshly 50, the importance of relationships. There are people these last few years I felt I’ve helped in one small way or another. Yet there have been more who have helped me in ways big and small, and for them I’m grateful.
In revisiting AARP, I learned Mr. Otwell has retired. I spoke with Kathy Keller, the association’s communications director for Ohio. She lives in Columbus, but loves to come to Toledo to bike along the University/Parks Trail. It’s not quite drag racing, but at least she’s a wheeled enthusiast.
I asked what new 60-year-olds should expect. Her answer was sobering.
“The 50s and 60s are not that different,” she said. “Some of these things that you were told that could happen when you were in your 50s could still happen.”
There’s an upside, Ms. Keller said: “There are some advantages to being in your 60s. For some people, they have this freedom to pursue things they couldn’t pursue before.”
She looks deeper into her crystal ball: “More people are living longer. There are more 80-year-olds now than ever in our history.”
The implication is that I and my fellow sexagenarians, if we stay healthy and avoid doing hazardous things such as speeding at more than 300 mph, eventually can become octogenarians.
I think back to the TV ad. Mr. Force follows the line about his being 61 by saying: “And I’m just getting started.”
That’s a good attitude. I look to another drag racer named Chris Karamesines. He too tops out at 320 mph. He’s 80.
There was an old saying that if you were speeding along unhindered, you were “going like 60.” I want to go like 60, and keep up with the likes of Mr. Force and Mr. Karamesines.
Dennis Bova is a copy editor for The Blade’s Pages of Opinion.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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