What can I tell you about my life?
Today I turn 51. Happy Birthday to Tom.
I stopped at that point and googled “when is a man over the hill?” The first answer I saw was from Urban Dictionary and the answer was 40. Thank goodness for that, I thought, I haven’t had to worry about going over the hill for more than a decade. I scrolled down a little bit more and saw an article from Time stating that men “start to feel old at age 58.” So I’m over the hill, by quite a bit, but I’m quite a bit away from feeling old. That sounds about right.
I’m ahead of the curve already, when you think about the history of man. Paleolithic man lived to be 33, on average. I’ve beaten him by almost two decades already. Early modern England man could expect to live to 40 so I guess that means that most of them never got over the hill. In 1950 the world average of life expectancy was 48 so I’m already 3 years better than 70 years ago. The average human being lives until 72 today, the average American male to about 79. By all accounts, if I’m an average guy, I’ve got another 28 years to live.
28 years ago I got my license back. I ran afoul of the lawman in my late teens – moving violations and FTAs, some eleven of those – and the judge took away my privilege. After getting in a vehicle accident in the work truck with no license one day I decided to take the long road to getting it back. I did. I was 23 years old when I did. 28 years ago. That seems like a million years so I guess that’s good.
In the 28 years since I’ve owned and sold a business, owned and sold a house, owned and lost another house, and bought a third house quite surprisingly. I got married in my late 20s and then reupped that commitment in my late 40s. I went back to school to become a teacher, studied for years in my 30s, then abandoned that dream altogether. I’ve written and read, lived and learned, loved and feared, became the Tom I wanted to be and found that it was the Tom that I liked most. 28-years-ago Tom and I are dramatically different. If I can grow half as much in the time I have left as I have grown from then all the rest of my years will be sublime.
This last year has been especially eventful. Not long after my spectacular birthday celebration in Reno with 30 of my closest friends I was evacuated from my home because of fire. I spent a week sleeping on a bedroom floor with my wife and dogs, across town at the house of a wonderful friend. My mother-in-law, who lives with us, slept in the bed in that same room. Cramped doesn’t begin to describe it. But others had it worse. Those fires took out some 1100 homes in my town and took eight lives.
A month after that my boss told me he wanted to retire in just a couple of years and would sell me the business, if I were willing. We quickly agreed on a rough figure and I saw before me the daunting task of raising enough money to get an SBA loan in what would be a relatively short amount of time. Not only that but I had to repair my credit, having a house foreclosed on me only two years before. With that in mind I applied for a secured credit card and was turned down. I felt the road ahead narrow.
A few weeks after that denial I got a call from a realty agent. The owner of the home I rented wanted to sell, and wanted to know if I wanted to buy. Of course I did, I said, but it’s impossible. I can’t even get a secured Visa. A month later to the day we signed the closing documents and the house was mine.
My head was spinning. Every dream seemed possible.
Upon closing my wife revealed to me that it was time for another child.
“And I get a third dog!” she said, before the ink was dry.
Apparently, somewhere along the way, probably while having beers, I said to her “no third dog until we own a house again.” I thought that event was years away at the time. Joke was on me. She started looking.
With renewed hope came renewed stress. Money was coming in pretty good from our jobs but she absolutely hated hers. I knew she couldn’t hold out there much longer, and the house purchase had just increased our financial outflows by more than $600/month. I tightened down the budget, marched forward and, as is the Tommy way, hoped for the best.
The span between 50 and 51 has been tumultuous, incredible. I could not have predicted one damn thing that happened.
“A fire will chase you from your home.” No, it won’t.
“You will buy a house this year.” Impossible. Can’t happen.
“You will honestly think about, plan for, owning a business again.” No thanks, man, not my style.
“You will have a dog named Marvel.” No dog; you know better.
“The Rams will be in the Super Bowl.” Come on, Rams don’t go to Super Bowls.
“Your wife will come home happy from work each day.” I’ll pay any amount for that.
Today I turn 51. Happy Birthday to Tom. I can honestly say that the last 365 days have been among the most bizarre of my life. I can also honestly say that I have never been happier. I have no idea what the next 365 days or 28 years will bring – I’m out of the prophecy game forever – but I can tell you I’ll make the most of them.
At any age, that remains the Tom-est thing that I can do.