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Making Sense of 60

Making Sense of 60
Tom and Buddy: young at heart and making sense of 60
Still standing. (photo: L.Weiss)

I remember the day my second grade teacher (and my not-so-secret crush) Miss Hilliard introduced the class to a real-life story problem. Her beguiling southern lilt lured us into the battlefield of math before we could say “subtraction.” She was sneaky that way, politely asking the class in a casual, conversational way, “Children, have you ever wondered how old you’d be in the year 2000?” When the class Nosey McGee asked her how old she would be, Miss Hilliard, smiled and said, “Dear, that is an answer I shall never reveal.” (Ah humor lost on second-graders.) For this baby boomer, the question and time frame seemed as remote as the possibility of flying cars and houses on Mars (though that didn’t stop me from imagining myself in an aluminum foil spacesuit, glass bubble helmet, and packing some heat—space laser heat). I even thought, that’s so far into the future, will I even be alive? Weighty questions for any seven-year-old. When I finally came up with the age of 43, I knew better. Sure I’d be alive, but now the question was, would I be able to walk and feed myself?

At grandma and grandpa’s house: Tom sport fishing and sporting a buzzcut.

Well, much to my delight, the age 43 and the year 2000, came and went without the need for walkers, canes, IV drips, or space lasers. And now as I tiptoe into the era of senior discounts ($1 off at the Vashon Theatre, thank you very much), I marvel that I’m this age at all, the age that dare not speaks its name: 60.

Out of college, I went north to Alaska.

Actually, I’m being just a bit dramatic, as of a week after this major milestone, I still feel as if my brain is functioning at the maturity level and mentality of a 28-year old, but without the whining or need to interject the pronoun “I” in each sentence. Age has a way of diluting one’s ego, which is a good thing; though vanity can still remain a potent reminder that I’m not that evolved, especially when I look in the mirror to shave a face of salt-and-pepper stubble, or comb a fleeting gray hairline, or brush the teeth that mock me with each smile “Hey dude, would it kill you to use a whitening strip once in awhile?”

Ah…the 80s, when I sought happiness in $40 haircuts and Hugo Boss suits.

On the bright side, while my body and looks may be heading south (on high-speed rail), my general sense of well being remains intact and strong, protected by a cultivated sense of optimism. (Who would have thunk?) And in this day and age, championing and maintaining optimism is an exercise tantamount to bench presses and arm curls. While I may attribute some of my half-glass-full approach to my nature and upbringing (whining was not allowed), over the years I’ve made it a point to actively fight the debilitating scripts and inner voices of pessimism and snarkiness. It can be a full-time job. I’m not perfect; sure I can grouse and complain with the best of them, but I also know that despair, distrust, fear, and gloom can be fed daily to rise up as a person’s de facto state of being. Let’s face it, a diet of cynicism will surely ruin any possibility of enjoying or even getting dessert.

Flowers, I’ve always grown them.

I also know I have a lot to be thankful for, from loving family to caring friends to my beloved island home and farm. The journey to this place surely was circuitous and a long time coming, but that is the gift. By 60, you start to know who you are and better yet, who you want to be. To be a better man is a worthy pastime, one that can often realize two steps back for every one step forward, but hopefully those steps are self-correcting and in the right direction.

Taking time to “smell the roses” comes in many forms (e.g. milkshakes)

So in making sense of 60, I’m at peace with it. Kindness comes at no cost. Love usually pays dividends, and joy is on-demand should I wish to summon it from the aforementioned wells of love and kindness. Without trying to sound like an overly-simplified self-help book or delusional optimist, I’ve learn (at least for me) happiness really is in the moment and the people in my life, and it doesn’t hurt to toss in a pie or two, some shared experiences, and the company of a furry friend along the way.

Buddy concurs though I fear he is getting bored by the subject.

So my friends, here’s to the journey and the discoveries along the way, to the surprises, the comforts, the warm hearts and gifts of nature. And remember, 60 is the new….

This just in, Buddy would like to add, all you need is love.



  1. Amazing post. I loved the old pictures of you. You were a real cutie patootie. We share coming to the age of 60 less than a year apart. It is quite a wake up call isn’t it. It has really made me feel that I must live my best and ‘funnest’ life. I too live on an island (Vancouver Island), love Negronne figs, garden my brains out, grow citrus in my greenhouse, love food, LOVE my pets….we are, in many ways, kindred spirits. Happy 60!!!!!!

  2. dearest , most darling Tom- you are , as always, achingly , thoughtfully correct. As I contemplate 60 and , among other things , letting my hair go its merry and natural way to the gray , I too agree that I finally feel as though I know myself – I surround myself with younger people so I’ll never be get-off-my-lawn person and I deeply love and take care to understand my older friends . I love that I met you through your beautiful blog and that I have a tiny family connection to your beautiful Vashon Island. Someday I’ll show up on your doorstep like Sal on Modern Family (a MUCH older Sal) and we’ll send my husband to get the sea food while you and I set the hottest table the island has ever seen. xo

    • Kim, I like this plan. Thank you for the kind words and warm regards here, not to mention having your hubby spring for the seafood. 😉 That an evening I would welcome easily and remember fondly, no doubt. Cheers my friend!

  3. Tom, it only gets better from 60 onwards. My twin and I will be hitting 64 this year, I’ve learned it’s just a number. Love your blog and have been following you for several years. Happy Birthday to you!

  4. Happy 60th Tom! I myself will be 67 tomorrow and I share that proudly! Our family has a terrible history of dying young and I was the first one in the family to make 60! Tomorrow I will celebrate with my awesome southern girlfriends (I’m the Yankee in the bunch) spending the day together and eating forbidden foods! Life is good😉

    • Hi Elizabeth, hey, thanks for noticing. Yep, turning 60 also seemed to be in sync with a reality check from my physician. Nothing too serious, but he provided me with a wakeup call that if I didn’t get my weight under control my quality of life would surely suffer. I have so much to do around here, that every pound lost is a gift to my joints, heart, lungs and outlook. It’s been a simple and slow approach that has worked for me, fewer carbs and no snacking or eating after 7pm. So far, so good.

  5. Happy 60th! All those thoughts of decrepitude hit me when I was 70! And now I’m 77 and going strong, so I hope you will too. You look terrific in all the pictures!

  6. 60 came and went for me. 70 was a shock and I relate to your comments! At 77 I’m still going strong, and you will be too. Go for it, Tom! You look fab in all your pictures and I love your blog. Happy birthday!

  7. Happy Birthday Tom!! This post certainly came at the perfect time my husband spent yesterday evening fretting over turning 50 this year

    • Karri, the irony is when he’s 60, he’ll look back on 50 and think, dang, I looked good and felt great. Tell him not to fret, he’s got ten years to catch up with me!

  8. And many happy returns of the day! I’ll be there not too far behind you, but have you noticed? You see a lot of old gardeners around, so….also, I love those plates on the wall behind you in the photo where you’re holding the bouquet (my dish gene always shows).

    • Thank you Anne, and old gardeners are great gardeners! As for the plates, that photo was taken in my friends Leslie and John’s dining room. They’re house is like a visit to Provence in the heart of Seattle.

  9. Lovely sentiments, Tom! As a 60-year-old (as of five days ago) proud woman I can relate. I’ve always believed smiling is one of the best ways to look healthy and young. Happy Birthday, Tom, and hoping many smiles in your years to come!

  10. Tom,
    This great blog post almost got by me! Happy Birthday!…how I enjoyed the pics of you in earlier years, but still like the current you best. You just look like someone having a Pretty Good Time. Have a wonderful year to come, may the blooms and blunders push you in new creative directions and a few (safe) Bulldog adventures. Aren’t the days before Spring full of anticipation? Enjoy!

  11. We at Deep Roots Farm celebrate you! And honor your birth. Your way in the world is enjoyed via your blog, photos, humor, grace-filled vulnerability and having visited Tall Clover. Today I turn 65. Such milestones. I feel so much younger. May your day after be as enjoyed as my day, as we both navigate the beauty and gifts of living in the PNW!

  12. Happy 60 — and I raise a glass in approval of your sentiments. Turning 60 was fabulous for me, as it was the year I finally realized I HAD to get my MIL out of my house — and spoke up. Out she went and up went my morale and my mental/emotional/physical/spiritual health. I admit signing up for Medicare, and last year, starting getting Social Security, were sobering experiences. This can’t be right, can it? How am I this old? But the perks of knowing oneself, forgiving oneself (and others) for not being perfect, and appreciating the small things in everyday life are (so far) compensating for the thinning hair, the expanding torso, and the slightly creaking joints. Thanks as always for sharing.

  13. Oh Tom –
    Aging is what we were born to do, and understanding it’s gift is the whole shebang of why we are here. I miss driving by your farm and seeing the woven fence and peek-a-boo view of your house. Congratulations on reaching another milestone and when I come visit the island the end of this month I might just do a drive down Beal Road for old times sake!

    • Mr. Bean, my wise sage, Vashon misses you and the Mrs., but it appears life is pretty darn good for you in Olympia. I would hope you have time to drop by on your next island visit, or know you’re welcome when you do. My best to you and Karen.

  14. Hello Tom,

    I have always attempted to live my life with curiosity. As I age my motto now is “Growing older but getting young.” My goal is enjoying life through the curosity of my own eyes and not through others.

    Everyone is welcome to come along on these adventures! Enjoying nature, pets, lessons from life etc. Age is just a number that cages you in. Life is an experience. Don’t let others tell you what you should think or should or should not be doing at a certain stage of your life. People that give limiting advise are just regurgiating other peoples stories. LIVE life!

    Buddy, the “Furry Family” is cheering for you to get a new pet!


    V and the Furry Gang

  15. Ah V, what lovely words, thank you. And I’m sure Buddy appreciates your lobbying skills. I’m still thinking about it, but keeping my eyes open for a happy match. Wells wishes to you and your furry gang, and again thank you.

  16. This is so darn lovely, Tom. A good set of thoughts for all of us, regardless of milestone. 🙂 Plus, it reminds me of what Johnny used to say…It’s all about the people and the food.

  17. Welcome back, Tom and happy birthday! You’ve been missed!! And just for the record you’ve got more hair than most 60 year old men out there!! More handsome, too. So you got that going for you!!!

  18. Happy Birthday, Tom ! My 60th was celebrated by a truly surprising surprise party. Took me years to trust my friends again. ☺️ Hope your celebration involves cake, eaten before 7 pm…

  19. Congratulations on the 60th birthday, Tom! I turned 60 3-1/2 years ago today and am still shaking my head with bemusement. Lovely writing and counsel as always, plus much wisdom from the commenters. As long as there is the blessing of good health, being older isn’t something I would trade for my confused younger years. You are handsome at every age! I must remember that part about no snacks after 7:00 p.m. . . .

    • Thanks Stephanie, yes, the good health part surely takes a front and center place with regard to quality of life. Who knew there were other breakfast options besides maples bars and strong coffee?

  20. Tom,
    It’s always a treat when I find a Tall Clover Farm post in my Feedly account…and this one is especially wonderful due to the subject! Last month I turned 65, a month after having unexpected quadruple coronary by-pass surgery. Thought I was living a healthy lifestyle (everything in moderation) but Dad’s family genes proved there are other factors in play. No worries, as every day I get a little stronger. Wishing you a very happy, and healthy 60th year on this beautiful planet.
    cheers from Vancouver B.C. and Point Roberts, WA

    • David, I’m so glad to hear you are on the mends. I can’t even imagine what such a surgery and recovery time would involve for the patient. Gosh, I have trouble with a dentist’s visit and a hang nail. Thank you for your kind words and well wishes, and here’s to your fine heart, both in the physical state and the soulful one.

  21. What a handsome man you are ! Welcome to the 60’s it’s wonderful. We need an Alaska airline reunion. I’ve got room for 4 !

    • Thank you Tucker, and that’s a good idea, maybe this summer, a reunion of oldies but goodies and the smiling faces that put the smile on Alaska Airlines’ Eskimo.

  22. Happy Birthday Tom!
    I decided a wee while ago that I would never complain about getting older as too many wonderful people never get the chance.
    That said, I admit to avoiding catching sight of my reflection when I’m not expecting it! Lol

  23. Happy Birthday, youngster!
    I’m a year ahead of you, and I must say I’m having the time of my life! At 60 I made the conscious decision that saying, “Why not?” and getting on with something I’ve wanted to do is so much healthier (and fun) than being responsible and only focusing on the “should do’s”. Grab life by the throat and make this a year to remember! You know you want to…

    • Ah Mike, I love this post for the wonderful comments that keep coming. I will bookmark it whenever I need a little recharge of kind words from my kind friends. Thank you!

  24. Hi, Tom, You have approached 60 with just the perfect frame of mind – love, kindness and optimism are what make the world go round and also make one’s life happy and meaningful. Congratulations on your new trim figure – you look smashing! Take a look at the life of my friend Harry who is 87 and still at the top of his game at drharryrosen.ca to see what you’ve got ahead of you! You’ve only begun! Buddy sure knows how to woo you – adorable! My Gracie has a range of noises that are as explicit as Buddy’s. How wonderful are dogs!

    • Sandra, thank you for your well wishes and sharing the link to Dr. Rosen’s website. Talk about an inspiration at 87; the man is ageless! And glad to hear you too are beguiled by the power of the pooch. Gracie, Buddy says hello, and extends a paw.

  25. You are wise dearest Tom — even beyond your years. And, I am so very grateful to be in your universe. Happy happy birthday and many many more.

  26. Loved the picture with the milkshake, however, you would never go back to milkshakes once you had a malt, which is actually a richer-tasting milkshake, by just adding some malt powder.

    • Carolyn, this comment just cements it; you are a culinary genius! It’s so funny that you mention malteds. The one shown was actually a malted and one of the first I’ve ever had (if you can believe that). So if you’re ever at the Luna Park Cafe in West Seattle (WA), just order the peanut butter, fudge malted and your world will be rocked ’til the last noisy slurp. Well wishes!

  27. I will be one year behind you Tom coming up in a few weeks! Happy Birthday! And what a great post…aging is whatever you make it to be..graceful or not. You seem to be doing a most excellent job!

  28. How could I have missed this?? What a wonderful reflection on your past, present… and future. I find you inspiring. Thank you for helping me make sense of 60 (+). I strive to live it with the joy you have shown me! Happy belated birthday, Tom!

    • Eileen, I look forward to the day we meet, and gush over bulldogs, pastry, and gardens. Your kind words welcome my morning with a smile. Thank you so much.

  29. Tom

    happy belated birthday wishes from down under in australia. i’ve enjoyed reading your posts for a long time now and this was just as enjoyable , being one year away from 60 myself. I’ve learned that gratefulness and enjoying small things matter.

    • Thank you Paul! Appreciate the well wishes and kind words, especially when they’ve traveled so far. Here’s to you and your beautiful country!


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