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Age is nothing but a (really big) number

Ever since Friday I've felt heavy breathing down the back of my neck.

I'm not referring to the slathering by Harpo, our big, fun-loving mutt who has never seen a bare neck he couldn't wait to baste.

Incidentally, when he is about to indulge it's best to sit with your back to the wall, like a gunfighter in the Old West. He is very quick on the draw with that sloppy tongue that slaps you like a hot, wet towel.

Each time I dry my neck of dog slobber, I always tell the grinning pooch he really ought to get a job in a liquor store.

Don't worry about it. He doesn't understand the joke, either.

This particular heavy breather would be the Grim Reaper, that foul fellow with the big scythe forever lurking in life's shadows.

My twin brother George turned the big Six Zero on Friday, completing his 60th trip around the sun. Although our lives are on different trajectories, we were together in spirit that day.

We are among the 77 million baby boomers across the nation celebrating 47th through 65th birthdays this year.

Yet 75 percent of us still consider ourselves middle-aged or younger, according to an Associated Press-LifeGoesStrong.com poll released last week. What's more, a quarter of the boomers insisted you are not old until you are 80, the poll reports.

Who are they kidding? Of course, we are old. The word "geezerly" comes to mind.

Hey, an antique is generally considered anything over 50 years old. We are most certainly a lot closer to the crypt than the cradle.

We boomers are standing with both feet on a banana peel beside an open grave. Moreover, this is a point in time when our generation will start aging in dog years.

There is no magical salve, no fountain of youth. Not even dog drool will stave it off.

Best to get ready for sagging chins that look like turkey wattles, more wrinkles than a Shar-Pei and age spots popping up faster than pimples on a teenager.

I was pondering the whole aging phenomenon a week ago today when we had two-dozen folks — and three non-slathering dogs — over to the house for a barbecue. These were friends, a few family members and a couple of folks we hope one day will become family members.

In addition to celebrating life in general, the gathering also served as a send off for a daughter who leaves next month to teach for a year in the United Arab Emirates. Yes, that will likely whiten the hair of her baby-boomer father.

Sadly, Harpo and his best buddy Waldo were in the kennel that day. All those bare necks and Harpo couldn't reach one with that sticky tongue.

Poor guy moped all week.

Granted, he would have found a substantial number of gray and white hairs on those necks as well as more than a few wrinkles.

Yet everyone was bright and vibrant, brimming with laughter and life. It was a fun time.

That's when I was reminded how incredibly fortunate I am, not only to know these people, but to still be perpendicular to the horizontal after all these years.

Immediately upon completing my hitch in the Marine Corps in the spring of 1971, I was in a car wreck, snapping my neck like a bread stick. I was paralyzed from the neck down, a quadriplegic. I was given my last rites at the scene.

Doctors told my twin I would never walk again. I was warned to expect heart problems and severe arthritis by the time I was 30, thanks to anticipated inactivity.

Pshaw.

I would regain my mobility within a year. True, I would never run again and my gait is wobbly to this day.

But I would graduate college, marry and become the proud parent of terrific children. I have traveled widely in a profession I thoroughly enjoyed.

Still, as a junior, I always figured I would die the same age as our father, who succumbed to cancer at age 54. Never mind it was totally illogical.

When I didn't perish on my 54th year, it felt like the sword of Damocles had been removed from over my head.

Now that I've achieved 60, I feel like kicking up my heels. It's as though I have been handed another lease on life. I've beaten the odds.

As for the Grim Reaper, he had better start taking his vitamins, exercising regularly and watching his diet if he expects to keep up with my neck.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.