December 26, 2016

Happy Birthday to Me: In My Extreme Age


Turn around, a decade [plus one] is gone. 70? 71? Doesn't feel so old. I'm told that it is but it doesn't feel that old. At the same time I confess I'm not exactly sure who that geezer is who shows up in the mirror every morning -- or where he came from. The thing is he keeps writing notes like this and leaving them where I can't help finding them:

In my extreme age --
In my age extreme --
Skin planed to glassine,
Bone buffed to crystal,
Light locked in the marrow,
And memory melded to images only....

In my extreme age --
In my age extreme --
Thoughts thinned to one
And dreams dimmed to soul;
To that one shred of thread
Which stitches the shroud

Of my extreme age --
In my age extreme.

In that age extreme,
That extreme edge of age,
There shall still
In such stillness
Sing in my deaf ears
One echo of now;

Your echo of now.
And your echo shall glimmer
Still on the river that streams
Through time’s silted canyons
Of my extreme age --
In my age extreme.

-- Vanderleun for Emma Jean.

Posted by gerardvanderleun at December 26, 2016 4:33 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

A lot of people I know don't look that good at 50. Hell, I'm 56 and I don't look that good. Stick it out, we need your voice.

Posted by: Og at December 26, 2015 5:01 PM

In the years I have followed, you have been polished into something lovely. It is a strange thing, to know someone you have never met, and mostly likely will never be known by. But, what you have shared with us, will outlive you and, you should know that it has meant something to me. A presence in this uneven time. A comfort. A surprise. I hope your 7th decade is all you hope for and more.

Posted by: Leslie at December 26, 2015 5:35 PM

Congrats, Gerard-- my 70th is in three weeks. My kids are throwing a shindig. Hope you're getting feted, too.

Posted by: Al Johnson at December 26, 2015 5:36 PM

70? I never would have guessed - you certainly don't look it.

A very happy birthday to you!

Posted by: Julie at December 26, 2015 5:42 PM

Happy birthday to you . . . . I still lead you by eight months!


Posted by: Terry at December 26, 2015 6:00 PM

I hope I'm doing as well in 10 years.

Posted by: ghostsniper at December 26, 2015 6:12 PM

Congrats on looking so fine at 70! Glad you stuck around to see it. Happy Birthday, Gerard.

Posted by: Joan of Argghh! at December 26, 2015 6:31 PM

Got a few more before I catch up to you, Gerard. Hope I make it. Getting old mostly kinda' sucks. But like I said on Facebook: Look on the bright side. Now we really understand Faust. (small compensation, I know) :/


Posted by: jwm at December 26, 2015 8:02 PM

I turned 60 on December 20th. I guess I'll try it out and see if I like it. I don't know why or how I suddenly know so many old geezers. Everyone is telling me, "60 is SO nice... it's REALLY great" and so on. Contemplating this enormous amount of liquor they left me with after my birthday party I think what they were saying is this be the river I be drifting down.

Posted by: Tom Hyland at December 26, 2015 8:25 PM

I've been reading you faithfully for a good while now. Please keep up the good work in future years. Happy Birthday!

Posted by: Brooks at December 26, 2015 8:30 PM

Happy Birthday Gerard!

Posted by: Mary*Ann at December 26, 2015 8:31 PM

Kind birthday wishes, Mr. American Digest. The Stranger - that's a blast from the past for me! Stay cool and keep the writings and posts coming. Signed, your eager audience.

Posted by: Casey Klahn at December 26, 2015 8:52 PM

Happy Birthday, Gerard!

I don't know why parents "shoot" for Christmas Day when they want to have children. [shakes head, chuckles] It's a helluva thing to do to a kid, to make it so that he or she is fussed over only one day a year instead of two days a year. :-)

My sister was due on Christmas Day of '51, and my parents almost succeeded -- she turns 64 tomorrow (the 27th). I was due on Christmas Day of '61, and I wasn't having any of it -- the doctors finally had to go in after me and drag me out kicking and screaming on the Twelfth Day of Christmas.

And yeah, just who *is* that geezer who keeps appearing in my mirror every freakin' morning??

And may that geezer who appears in your mirror every morning keep appearing there for many more years.

Hale Adams
Pikesville, People's still-mostly-Democratic Republic of Maryland

Posted by: Hale Adams at December 26, 2015 8:58 PM

Happy Birthday!
You sure don't look 70.

Posted by: Scott M at December 26, 2015 10:39 PM

"One of the many pleasures of old age is giving things up."
- Malcolm Muggeridge
Best wishes for all your future nows. - Tanis

Posted by: Mizz E at December 27, 2015 4:42 AM

Happy B'Day Gerard, from the "Land of Enchantment" (NM) where we are enjoying a rare blizzard today. I agree with the consensus here, you're looking great for 70. I really do enjoy your site and your incite. I'll hit the tip jar as a B'Day gift to you. Here's to many more.

Posted by: vichris at December 27, 2015 5:14 AM

"How terribly strange to be seventy."

Posted by: Terry Kirkpatrick at December 27, 2015 5:20 AM

So far, so good. What a long strange trip it's been.

Sixty-three in February, here. That doesn't look that old from where you're sitting, does it? I wonder what your Mom thinks about seventy. Or having a son that just turned seventy...

You clean up pretty good, Gerard. Many happy returns of the day. Go get 'em.

Posted by: mezzrow at December 27, 2015 5:50 AM

Happy Birthday, Gerard.

Posted by: Sippican at December 27, 2015 6:08 AM

Many even happier returns of the day, Gerard!

Thank you for being here.


Posted by: Punditarian at December 27, 2015 6:24 AM

Happy Birthday... and many more.

Posted by: Jake in Seattle at December 27, 2015 6:28 AM

Happy Birthday and welcome to The Club! I'm sure you'll discover that 70 is the 'new 50'. You certainly carry the years well and your writing is timeless so, as your lovely mother has done, I expect to continue reading you for decades to come.

Posted by: Dinah at December 27, 2015 7:55 AM

God bless you, Mr. Van der Leun, and may the Lord bless us by leaving you with us for many more birthdays.

Posted by: Browncoat at December 27, 2015 8:09 AM

Looks like the Hair Club membership is paying dividends. Happy birthday Van der Loin!

Posted by: westsoundmodern at December 27, 2015 8:35 AM

Great blog! Keep up the good work.

Posted by: Tom at December 27, 2015 8:49 AM

I'm just a couple behind you, and look nowhere near as good as you do.
Have a happy birth day. Tell your Mom "Thanks for having me". Mothers should be the ones honored on birthdays by my reckoning. No one listens, so Oh well.
My daily goals are vertical and above ground. So far so good, though there have been those occasions of late where the vertical has been challenged.
Best wishes anyway for a life as long as you want.

Posted by: tomw at December 27, 2015 8:51 AM

I wanna see that painting in the attic.

Posted by: Gagdad Bob at December 27, 2015 9:06 AM

Happy Birthday from out here in the hinterlands! Just passed the 60-year milestone....did not realize you had 10 years on me! In any case, you wear your's well!! Your wit and wisdom seem to be as sharp as ever. Now if the rest of the world will get off our respective lawns...

Posted by: Guy S at December 27, 2015 9:09 AM

70 trips around the Sun is indeed a time for cheer, but 70 you do not look. I shall raise a tipple to you today, and say, Happy Birthday Gerard, and may many more Solar circuits come your way.

Posted by: I.C.Nielsen at December 27, 2015 9:12 AM

Happy Birthday Gerard! and thanks for American Digest.

I have had your website filed under "Something Wonderful" for quite a while now. Here's to the continuation of your fine posting and to your continued health and enjoyment of this fascinating world.

Posted by: Phil in Englewood at December 27, 2015 9:28 AM

Happy birthday, Gerard. I'm a few months behind and will join you soon in that new land.

Posted by: chuck at December 27, 2015 9:32 AM

Best of all for another 70. Your aged wine keeps us younger too.

Posted by: Howard Nelson at December 27, 2015 9:39 AM

Happy B-Day, Gerard! Keep writing, we'll keep reading.

The guy who said old age isn't for sissies was an optimist.

~ Smokey

(You've got me by 3 years. I never woulda thought... 70! ...Yikes!!)

Posted by: Smokey at December 27, 2015 9:45 AM

Welcome to maturity, Mr G. Hell, I have tennis shoes almost your age so cheer up, the best is ahead of you.
I have all my hair and the important parts still work just fine *wink*. You inspire thousands every day and
we'll need you for awhile yet, so hang in there. Cheers from the Ga Blue Ridge, and God bless.

Robert, GaGator, Sunday Anon & Anon43.

Posted by: Anon43 at December 27, 2015 10:22 AM

It's those danged Chinese mirrors some dastard installed in the night! Gonna kill him if I catch him.

Posted by: Sam L. at December 27, 2015 11:30 AM

Gerard: Happy, Happy Birthday! Not certain what 70 is supposed to look like, but you make it look good. Your blog is at the top of my reading list every morning for a very long time now. Thank you.

Posted by: Cheryl at December 27, 2015 11:58 AM

I guess you'd say we were in the same tribe and AD is a beacon that attracts our people as well as broadcasting their message. My visits here go back into the mists of time. I owe you. "We" owe you. Marcel Proust (Remembrance of Things Past) wrote that the Real takes shape in memory alone. Nice thing about ageing is the accumulation of memories and thus the Real itself. Imagine if we were eternal or had some way of tapping into eternity even just a little bit how Real life and the world would seem.

Thank you for all you do, for keeping the light shining. Happy Birthday!

Posted by: John Hinds at December 27, 2015 12:08 PM

. . . and many more!

Posted by: Dr. Jay & Miss Diana at December 27, 2015 12:57 PM

Cheer up Vanderleun. It gets extremer and extremer. (84 and counting).

Posted by: BillH at December 27, 2015 1:33 PM

Men of truth that love life deserve innumerable birthday celebrations. Good stuff, sir. Happy birthday!

Posted by: Jersey Jehu at December 27, 2015 2:07 PM

A birthday? Have as many as you want.

That's my plan.

Eh, I'm an American. I want big - and everything else, so big, tall, wide, and many is in the blood.

So may all of your birthdays be a true American Spectacle; and may you have as many as you want.

Posted by: Mikey NTH at December 27, 2015 2:22 PM

Hang tough, glad we're both still here.

Posted by: texascarl at December 27, 2015 2:23 PM

what once passed so slow
now flash by at lightning speed
Time grows so precious

Posted by: Colonel Haiku at December 27, 2015 2:28 PM

Well, well, well. Happy birthday, Gerard.

Posted by: jaed at December 27, 2015 2:33 PM

I remembered it was around nowish, but the big 70 - wow! Happy Birthday. Happiest Birthday, and many more to come.
(Looks like that wish for continuing epic coolness has worked out, whatcha gonna wish for on this bonfire of candles;)

Posted by: DeAnn at December 27, 2015 2:39 PM


Posted by: Hale Adams at December 27, 2015 2:42 PM

Happy birthday, GVdL. Stay on the bounce.


Posted by: Jean V DuBois at December 27, 2015 2:56 PM

That swing and bounce in your writing comes from a feller in the prime of life --good show in not diving into that feather bed for the grateful feeble. I'm real close to that big seven-oh no myself, so i know of whence i speak, of that longing eye ('longing', hey!).

Posted by: buddy larsen at December 27, 2015 2:57 PM

That swing and bounce in your writing comes from a feller in the prime of life --good show in not diving into that feather bed for the grateful feeble. I'm real close to that big seven-oh no myself, so i know of whence i speak, of that longing eye ('longing', hey!).

Posted by: buddy larsen at December 27, 2015 2:57 PM

Whoa! 70! You look GREAT. (Yer writing's great, too!)

Posted by: Quana at December 27, 2015 3:04 PM

Happy Birthday of course but more importantly, many many more!

Posted by: Jeff Brokaw at December 27, 2015 3:28 PM

Happy birthday Mr. Vanderleun!

I've been almost invisible on your blog, but have been reading and enjoying it for years.

A hearfelt thank you for all you are, and do.

Posted by: Rosey at December 27, 2015 3:28 PM

Happy B-day. These are the days, my friend.

Posted by: Jim in Tulsa at December 27, 2015 3:38 PM

Happy birthday.

Posted by: Bradoplata (@bradoplata) at December 27, 2015 5:03 PM

Your blog has been a daily stop of mine for many years - thank you for that! Wishing you many, many happy returns of the day with warm regards from your friend, Cynthia.

Posted by: Goldenwest at December 27, 2015 5:05 PM

Happy Birthday, Gerard!

(More importantly, there's a bottle of fine rum waiting for you at the bar....)

Posted by: ArmChair Sinner at December 27, 2015 5:19 PM

Happy 70th birthday Gerard. 66 here Wednesday. It's a shame time speeds up as you get older.

Posted by: brinster at December 27, 2015 5:20 PM

Old's not for wimps!

64 here and I just want the Medicare ads to stop! Happy birthday! May you have a long, comfortable life.

Posted by: Teri Pittman at December 27, 2015 5:47 PM

Some perspective on age.

Posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger at December 27, 2015 9:06 PM

And many more!

All best wishes.

Posted by: Jonathan at December 27, 2015 9:17 PM

Happy birthday, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and all that other celebratory folderol.

Posted by: Mumblix Grumph at December 27, 2015 10:06 PM

Happy Birthday, sir.

Only 54 here and breaking in a new hip already. It's not supposed to be the years but instead the miles that leave the marks.

Looking forward to the day I can share a coffee in Utah.

Praying for something. Praying something beautiful finds you soon again.

Looking good, sir.

Posted by: TmjUtah at December 27, 2015 11:59 PM

Well, I'm always a day late and a dollar short...

Happy Birthday, Gerard!

It continues to be a pleasure to know you by your words.


Posted by: Another Old Navy Chief at December 28, 2015 12:53 AM

Mazeltov, GVDL!

Many more as well.


Posted by: CA at December 28, 2015 2:28 AM

Happy Birthday! Looks like you have your mothers genes! ;)

Posted by: Bill Henry at December 28, 2015 9:32 AM

Best wishes.

Posted by: ErisGuy at December 29, 2015 5:21 AM

Happy Birthday, and thanks!

Posted by: Will at December 29, 2015 9:13 AM

Been there. Done that. I've got eight your on you you young whippersnapper you! ;-)

The voice of experience: The first seventy years is the easiest, it gets harder after that.

Happy birthday and happy rest of your life wishes!

Posted by: Jim in Alaska at December 29, 2015 10:57 AM

One for you, compadre. I thought it was appropriate:

Posted by: Joe Katzman at December 29, 2015 12:37 PM

Oops! I'm sure when you reach seventy eight, your writing won't include grievous typos such as, in my above post, my; "Been there. Done that. I've got eight your on you ..." Sigh, I meant 'years' not 'your'.

I, for one, blame it all on global warming!

Posted by: Jim in Alaska at December 29, 2015 1:13 PM

In that picture you don't look 71.
If I didn't know better I'd guess you were in your 50's.

Posted by: ghostsniper at December 26, 2016 10:09 AM

Still ahead of you by eight months.

Happy birthday Gerard!

Posted by: Terry at December 26, 2016 11:02 AM

And yet, once gone and once back, and looking as feisty as ever. Miraculously.


Posted by: Everyman at December 26, 2016 11:10 AM

A very heartfelt Happy Birthday to you, sir!

The GIFT that the Good Lord gave you as regards the keyboard and word, is a gift that truly keeps giving to us all.

And the GIFT of your having survived your "checking-out" a few years back? Yeah, that too.

Straight up, your writing is the benchmark to which I aspire to be 1/10th as good, someday.

I do hope that you've been showered with beautiful, fun and treasured presents on this, your 70th.

But truly we're the beneficiaries of your gift, and for that, I for one, am thankful.

Many Happy Returns!

Sunk New Dawn
Galveston, TX

Posted by: Jim at December 26, 2016 12:16 PM

You've already got the old white guy thing going on and you still have to throw in the thick head of hair? That could be very triggering for young black girls who are going bald. But Michelle Obama wishes you a happy birthday anyway.

Posted by: MOTUS at December 26, 2016 7:33 PM


I'm about three weeks behind you and don't feel old either. My Mom always said the OLD is ten years older than you are. To a five year old, fifteen is OLD, to someone who is twenty, thirty seems ancient. You and I are not there yet. Neither is your Mom. To her, OLD is what, 112?

Do not stop moving. The ticket taker for the River Styx can't keep up.

Posted by: Dave at December 26, 2016 7:35 PM

Happy birthday.

Posted by: mushroom at December 27, 2016 3:28 PM

Birthdays are like stepping stones from when you were to what you are and what you will be.
Please keep stepping -- the parade is in your honor.
And G-d reciprocates by blessing you.

Posted by: Howard Nelson at December 27, 2016 8:55 PM

Happy Birthday! Your hair looks great!

Posted by: Snakepit Kansas at December 28, 2016 3:25 PM

I hope I'm half as awesome as you are at your age. Thanks for the last 16 years of wisdom and inspiration

Posted by: Uncle Mikey at December 31, 2016 1:42 PM