“When I’m Sixty Four”

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album coverDid you know that Paul McCartney was 16 years old when he and John Lennon wrote “When I’m Sixty Four”? Paul and Ringo are the only two Beatles who lived to see 64. John was murdered at 40 and George died from lung cancer at 58.

When the song was released in 1967, I was 15 years old, and I have made it to 64. It seems somehow not to be quite the advanced age I thought it was then!

Here are 10 things I didn’t even begin, at 15, to conceive of about myself at 64 . . .

  • that I’d be a mother of 2, stepmother of 2, mother-in-law of 3, and grandmother of 6. (I expected to have kids, as did most girls in the 1960s, but not how many or how much I’d love being a parent of young kids and older ones, and having a bunch of almost-my-kids.)
  • that I’d have taught school for only 5 years before deciding it wasn’t really the job for me, even though becoming a teacher was what I’d wanted to do pretty much from the time I started school.
  • that I’d be the author of 30 books for young people (including 1 declared “a classic” almost as soon as it was published and another a major prize winner), and 9 stories in anthologies, some for young adults and some for older ones.
  • that I’d own a computer, several of them in fact, in various forms. (When I was 15, a computer was still, as far as I knew, the huge boxy thing I’d seen on Art Linkletter’s tv show, not something I could easily carry around with me from room to room.)
  • that I would be a dog person. (I was in my 50s before I understood why anyone would want to welcome one of these hairy, sniffing, smelly, jumping up, barking animals into their home, and almost 64 before I discovered that my home didn’t feel complete without one. Dogs enrich life so wonderfully when their people let them know which behaviours are appreciated and which aren’t.)
  • that I’d be a twelve-year volunteer reader and technician at the CNIB, and an avid member of a book group. (No surprise there really. My favourite part of being a teacher was reading aloud to my students, and I’ve always been an avid reader, but well into my adult years before I found out that people got together to talk about books they’d all read.)
  • that I would be active, period — walking an average of an hour a day, practising yoga a few times a week, gardening, shoveling snow.
  • that yogurt and quinoa would be regular items in my diet. (I’d heard of neither at 15.)
  • that I’d be busy planning a very big birthday party for my terrific partner of 31 years, who has made it well past 64 with style and mostly good grace.
  • that I would be embracing 64 so contentedly, and looking forward to the years ahead, not without some trepidation about the possibilities there, but mostly excited about continuing to develop my skills as a writer and amateur photographer, and continuing to cherish time with my wonderful extended family and excellent friends.

What has surprised you about being however old you are now?

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Kathy Stinson is the author of the classic Red Is Best and the award-winning The Man with the Violin. Her wide range of titles includes picture books, non-fiction, young adult fiction, historical fiction, horror, biography, series books, and short stories. She has met with her readers in every province and territory of Canada, in the United States, Britain, Liberia, and Korea. She lives in a small town in Ontario.

Kathy Stinson

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