It appears they let anybody turn 50 years old today. Even me.
As Sid Fernandez, Benny Agbayani, Rick Trlicek and a handful of others  who — Trlicek-style — avoided distinguishing it could confirm, 50’s a number, just like any other number. Yet when you reach a number that’s considered enough of a milestone to rate commemorative-patch treatment, well, attention must be paid.
Goodness knows it got my attention the year I was 49  but barely noticed because I was laser-focused on turning 50. And now I have. It will take me a while to find out what the big deal is. I’m guessing it will sink in, so to speak, when my doctor tells me to make an appointment for one of those tests you get not because you’re ill but because you’re old. One year you’re 49 and wondering what’s up with Collin McHugh. The next year you’re 50 and you’re wondering what’s up with your colonoscopy. (And, probably, Collin McHugh.)
I’ll let those of you who are on the pre-Sid side of 50 in on a little secret. I’ve only been in my fifties for about half a day, but it’s not so bad to get here. That bit about “older and wiser”? It really does happen. I hit a spot in my mid-thirties when I realized how much I didn’t know about life. About a decade later, it began to dawn on me that I knew more than I realized and was learning more all the time. That’s not the same as saying I’ve figured out what to do with any of it, but, to borrow a phrase from another sport, I’m amazed sometimes how I’ve gained the ability to see the entire field. I understand “stuff” more than I ever have before. There’s plenty of stuff I don’t, but that’s part of the beauty of getting here, too. You know enough to know you don’t know everything and you know things you didn’t know you knew. You really start to put it together in your mind at some point.
Then nature apparently makes up for that great revelation by calculating ways to gradually chip away at that mind you’re so proud you’ve honed for a half-century. Plus going for those tests. And not really wanting to climb all the way to the top of Promenade if you can help it, though I’ve never been a big fan of that, anyway. There’s a tradeoff in there somewhere between wisdom absorbed and youth eroded. Like d’Arnaud for Dickey, a Mets fan can’t have everything at once.
Of course we’re all younger than we used to be if you follow the stereotypes associated with once ludicrously old-sounding ages like 40 and 50. My mother threw my father a surprise 50th birthday party 34 years ago next month. I was in charge of sending out the invitations from a store-bought pack whose cards said on the front, “Here’s Looking At You.” I decided to embellish what Hallmark or whoever printed by adding “Kid!” to the message…“Here’s Looking At You Kid!” I’d heard it on TV and, besides, as I understood it, middle-aged people loved being flattered at how young they seemed.
This did not go over well with my 49-year-old mother, who informed me with her usual understated approach to intrafamilial relations that these people whose invitations I had desecrated with my personal touch were, in terms Ben Franklin would use, the cream of their colonies.
They’re in business!
You don’t go around calling an adult “Kid!”
It’s an insult!
What kind of idiot are you?
From there followed the massive deployment of Liquid Paper to remove the offending passage. Moral crisis averted. Aesthetic disaster another story.
The party went on, as those mature, distinguished middle-aged people seemed frothy and uninsulted by the blotched-out “Kid!” while the whiskey sours and vodka tonics flowed. But they sure did seem older to me than I do to myself now. Times change. Social mores change. Commonly held values change. Technology changes (which is good, ’cause I’m pretty sure were low on Liquid Paper). Yet I’m still me, recognizable internally — prospective colonoscopy appointments notwithstanding — from 50 to when I was 16 and finding ways to allegedly ruin surprise parties that had nothing to do with ruining the surprise.
So either I don’t feel 50 or I do feel 50, because this — rambling recollections about the old days sprinkled with semi-superfluous Mets references — might very well be what 50 is…for this kid, at any rate.
Finally, per Ralph Kiner, happy birthday to all you new years out there.