Will You Still Need Me, Will You Still Feed Me…


When I'm 64 on the ukeTurning 64, as in the 1967 Beatles’ song, once seemed so distant that it it was as remote as flying cars and jet packs. By the time I reached that age, I thought, we’d have a moon base colony, orbiting hotels as in 2001, A Space Odyssey, and were reaching out to the planets. Maybe even a base on Mars by then

None of which had happened, of course, by the time I reached the magical age in the song, and even today it looks remote. But back then, in the late Sixties, the years ahead seemed so full of potential and excitement that anything was possible. What dreams we had. Too bad our politicians didn’t share them.

I always wondered, hearing the song, why the singer was afraid that his partner, his lover, would abandon him. “Will you still need me/Will you still feed me/When I’m 64?” Was she about to toss him into the street, replace him with a new model (insert your favourite Donald Trump-trophy wife quip here…)?

Sixty four passed me without any such concern.

To be honest, I never thought I’d even reach that age. When you’re 17, you can’t imagine being almost 50 years older. Any more than I can today imagine being 30 years older and doddering about in my nineties. An age to which I fully expect to reach if for no other reason that it may take me that long to finally read all of Ulysses.

It’s funny, you know, how age plays tricks on our minds: I don’t think of myself as old. I still listen to the Beatles and music of the Sixties. I still play those songs on my instruments, too. My body has other notions, however, and the growing number of creaky joints, arthritic twinges and inexplicable aches suggests that my mind hasn’t quite caught up to the reality of time.

When I count the years in between life’s major events, I wonder where they went. How did a young guy like me end up in this old frame? Wasn’t I riding motorcycles and playing rock and roll guitar in a local bar until two a.m. only yesterday? Wasn’t I the guy wading in the Arctic water, hiking the sun-parched highland hills of Mexico, or driving through the Negev? Who’s the old guy looking out of the mirror at me? And what has he done with my real self?

Sunrise, Sunset…swiftly fly the days. The song sticks in my brain a lot these days. I don’t remember growing old… One season following another, laden with happiness and tears.

I met Susan at the tail end of 1982, a day before New Year’s Eve. In a Toronto bar; an Irish pub I’d frequented on and off because they were one of the few that offered Guinness on tap. I wasn’t seeing anyone seriously then. A few dates, a movie, maybe dinner; nothing more. I dined alone that night, then went to the nearby pub for a quick after-dinner drink, not expecting to meet anyone.

I was wrong. I ended up staying many hours talking with this lovely, wonderful woman I met. We planned to meet again after the New Year. I had no idea it would be a lifetime event.

Thirty three years ago it was, and we’ve been together ever since; more than half my life spent with one person. And never once did I question whether she would need me, feed me, when I got to my current age. Never once did I not see us growing old together.

I wondered, a few times, if she would kill me, however. Metaphorically, of course, since she’s not a violent person. But I do test her limits, at times. Well, a lot of times. Her control and patience are nothing short of miraculous. We’ve had our ups and downs, as couples do.

I am always surprised she has for so many years tolerated me and my erratic passions as I lurch from obsession to obsession.

Susan has put up with the house full of foster pets (many dogs and cats, both at the same time), the pack of ferrets, the insatiable book buying that continues even today, the wargaming, the politics and the vandalism and harassment it brought, the weekend jam sessions that ran into the small hours, the motorcycles – at least one new one every year, the guitars and keyboards filling all available space, the ukuleles that followed them, the more recent pasta and bread obsessions, the hot tub I had to get, the all-night computer gaming sessions, and the years doing freelance work that took me all over.

She puts up with me even now, old and cranky as I’ve become. And I marvel at that, most days. She puts up with the piles of books that stand in front of the heavily-overladen bookshelves. She puts up with the dogs and cats and the ukuleles and the spindly plants I insist on growing from avocado pits. She suffers my occasional snoring, my liking for olives and hot sauces with every dish, my organic approach to tool storage and my boxes of historical papers stored in the basement.

It’s quite wonderful to think I might spend another 33 years with her.

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