Why do you suppose “Music Man” Meredith Wilson chose seventy-six trombones to lead his big parade? I understand that the composer/lyricist of one of my favorite musicals needed the three-syllable word “sev-en-ty.” They fit the triplet rhythm leading to the downbeat on “six.” But why six? Why not seventy-nine or seventy-two?
This inconsequential question floats through my mind as I approach my seventy-sixth birthday amidst a pandemic. Spiritual writer Richard Rohr describes this time of global crisis as “liminal space.”
“It is where we are betwixt and between, having left one room or stage of life but not yet entered the next,” he explains. That’s how I feel about moving into my late seventies. Neither here nor there; once “mature,” now hurtling toward downright “old.”
Because I don’t know how I feel or what I think about this birthday, I decided to turn to my mother for advice. Hah! she’d say. You never asked my advice when I was alive. True, but I always knew what her advice would be, and I didn’t want to hear it. It seems that I’m catching up with my mother. It took her most of a lifetime to reach seventy-six. It’s taken me no time at all.
I consulted Mother’s diary from 1992. It seems that I’m catching up with her. It took Mother most of a lifetime to reach seventy-six. It’s taken me no time at all. She kept sporadic diaries from the time she was in college. Primarily she recorded daily events, only rarely confiding her feelings. The day before her seventy-sixth birthday she wrote that her granddaughter, with husband and child in tow, had arrived at 10 p.m. for an overnight birthday visit. Mother’s bedtime diary entry, after getting her guests settled for the night: “So this is my last half-hour of being seventy-five. Lucky me.” Her version of dry humor.
On her birthday, she noted that the celebration was nothing like her seventy-fifth, which had entailed a grandiose family gathering. But there were enough family members on-hand and calls from the others to make this day, in her word, “complete.” Her conclusion: “Very thankful for seventy-six years, for health, fine family, mostly for God’s blessing and love.”
Well, me too. Still, the number seventy-six seems boring, inconsequential. Google reminds me that there is the “Spirit of ’76,” the patriotic sentiment related to the American Revolution. Richard Nixon had “The Spirit of ’76” emblazoned on the nose of Air Force One. Other Google findings:
- the 76 gas station chain was so-named because of the gasoline’s octane rating,
- if I were a gamer I’d be into “Fallout 76,”
- Denny’s restaurant sales were down 76 percent in April,
- and finally, there’s Psalm 76. Not a lot of comfort in the psalmist’s remarks to God: “What terror you inspire! who can stand before you when you are angry?”
Googled-out, I found a list of notable people who were born the same year as I. No surprise that I didn’t make the list. Frank Sinatra Jr. did. Sadly though, he didn’t make it to seventy-six. Mother was right. I’m “very thankful.”
Illustration by Pawny from Pixabay