A Farmer Looks at 60

Posted on July 5, 2020


Humorous references are a lot less amusing if you have to explain them.  I originally conceived this post around the time of my 59th.  I thought the reference to “A Pirate Looks at 40” by Jimmy Buffett was pretty obvious.  I figured every boomer on the planet knew that song.  I asked a couple of friends who are fairly knowledgeable about music, and they didn’t get it.  Oh, well.  I went with it anyway.  As an aside, Jimmy was 28 when he wrote the song.

I am turning 60 this month which is kind of weird.  I was the baby of the family.  I was younger than most of the cousins.  When I started in banking, people would laugh when they found out I was born in ‘60 as some of them had been in banking by then.  Now I am actually about to be a senior citizen.[1]  I’m not sure how that happened.

A lot has happened since my 59th so this may come out differently than I originally conceived it.  My wife had a heart attack and 2 surgeries to put in stents.  We have all been dealing with this whole COVID-19 business.  Life in the last year has been substantially different from how I envisioned it.  Having said that, on the whole, it is still really good.

Farmer?  When the United States was expanding from the East Coast westward, there were basically two mindsets of those who were heading west to settle the continent: Cowboy and Farmer.  The cowboy mindset was about open spaces, no fences, freedom, no commitments, no attachments.  The farmer mindset was one of putting down roots, settling down, commitment, building a life.

Like any other aspect of personality, most of us are somewhere between two extremes.  People are not binary.  We tend to not be either this or that, but somewhere on a continuum between the poles.  Having said that, I am about as farmer a man as you are ever likely to meet.  All I ever wanted was a wife, 2.7 kids, a house in the suburbs, and to be gainfully employed.  My wife points out that when we first got together I used to add “a dog in the yard.”  I am happier now with just a granddog – much less work and expense and I don’t have to watch where I step in the backyard (or worry about who will take care of her when we travel).  There is an old adage that says, “Be careful what you wish for; you might just get it.”  Essentially, I did get everything that was on my list and it has been as great as I had hoped.  (I won’t get into here how you get 2.7 kids, but it is quite doable.)[2]

I got married at 23 so I have had the same companion, best friend, lover, and partner for largely my whole adult life.  I have been married to Carol much longer than I wasn’t.  It is a wonderful thing to have a partner who is a constant in your life.

We have been in the same house for 28 years (only about 100 miles from either of our places of birth and those of my children).  We moved in when the home was new.  Of the 22 houses in our tract, 10 are still original owners and another 6 of the owners have been in the home over 20 years.  Those numbers would have been higher a couple of years ago, but some neighbors have moved to downsize.  When we moved in, there were 50 kids in those 22 homes.  All of those have long since grown and flown so what children we do still have are from the newer neighbors or the next generation.

Daughters #1 and #2 each live about 15 minutes away.  Daughter #2.7 lives across the country but that is a result of where the coast guard sent her husband.  They will be back.  Even the best man from our wedding lives about two miles from us.

My wife and I have been members of our church for 21 years.  I have served as an elder, she as a deacon.  I have chaired the pastoral care committee, the marriage enrichment team, led worship, taught Bible study, facilitated marriage retreats, wrote and taught College of Marriage, spoken for NAMI, MOPS, Moms in Touch, and Stephen Ministers.  We have also served with the San Diego Emmaus community for 26 years.  I have served on about 25-30 Walk to Emmaus teams, 5-6 Chrysalis teams, and 3 Face to Face teams.  I served six years on the board of directors for the San Diego Emmaus Community.  My small group has consisted of the same three men meeting for breakfast once a week for 20 years[3].

All of this is to say that our roots run deep where we are.  Family legend has it that after WWII, my maternal grandfather stepped off the train in San Diego one winter’s day and swore he would never again endure an Illinois winter.  My chief complaint about San Diego is that winters are too long and cold.  People always laugh when I say that.  I am actually serious.  I don’t understand why human beings ever settled outside the tropics, but I digress.  A couple of years ago, we spent Christmas on Kauai.  I was tempted (as my grandfather had) to swear I would never endure another San Diego winter.  But as I pointed out, my roots run deep.  My life is here.


My family of origin is similar in many of these regards.  My parents had been married for 39 years at the time of my dad’s death.  My siblings have been married for 39 years, 43 years, and 40 years (at the time of my sister’s death).  My family of origin was by no means perfect, but there has always been cohesion and a sense of family identity.

I can’t claim to be loved by all who know me, but to the best of my knowledge, I have no enemies and no grudges.  If you did something to hurt me, I have long since let it go.  If I did something to hurt you, I am sorry for that and hope you have found some healing from it.


To a large extent, life has exceeded my expectations at most every turn.  The gaps between how it is and how I would have it to be are relatively small.  Where the gaps exist, it is either outside of my control, self-inflicted (I made the choice), or not worth fixing.  I would like having grandchildren around[4], but when that happens is outside my control.  I have frequently found myself a little busier and working harder than I want[5], but that wound is self-inflicted.  I have control of my schedule and could say “no.”  The rest of the gaps are small enough that they qualify as things just not worth the effort to change.


Here is the little bit of wisdom I think I have gathered in 60 years of living (in no particular order)[6].

Shower the People – With a nod to James Taylor.  The people that you love should feel loved by you.  Love is not just something you feel, it is something that you do.  Moment by moment, day by day, you choose to love or not by the things you do and say and how you do and say them.  The people in your life should have a feeling that you think they are pretty great.

Everything’s going to be alright, Rock-a-Bye (Shawn Mullens).   As Tom Petty once observed “Most of the things I worry about, never happen anyway.”  If I allowed myself, I could, have, and do worry with the best of them.  I try to be intentional about remembering that things have a way of working out.  Things don’t always go the way you want, but they generally work out in some manageable fashion.

As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Rom. 12:18).  Life is much more enjoyable when you don’t have feuds, grudges, and other unresolved conflicts.  You can only control you.  But to the extent you can control it, be at peace with everyone.

Preach the Gospel always, when necessary use words (St. Francis of Assisi).  How you treat people and how you live is a much more effective witness than what you say.  If what you say and how you act are incongruent, people (particularly your children) will believe what you do more than what you say[7].

Do not repay evil for evil (Rom 12:17).  Does this really require further comment?  If someone has done something hurtful to you, it does not justify payback.  Have boundaries with unsafe people, not revenge.

Doing the best they can.  People are doing the best they can according to their current understanding.  Consequently, we should give people the most generous interpretation of their behavior available.

Not everything that happens to you is about you.  The Temptations once sang, “I can make it rain whenever I want it to.”  That’s pretty easy.  Just wash my car.  We can have a clear 5 day forecast, but it will rain within 48 hours of my car wash.  Though the data seems to support this hypothesis, the reality is that whether it rains or not is not about me.  The same thing applies to people.  If someone cuts in front of me, it probably has nothing to do with me.

What goes around, comes around.  I had always heard that the French had a reputation for being rude (particularly to Americans).  My wife and I went to France in 2014.  Virtually everyone we encountered was polite, friendly, and helpful.  I can think of only one exception and that is pretty good for 11 days of interacting with many people in a variety of contexts.  Both at home and abroad, I have found that the way you treat people generally comes back to you.

Give Murphy his reasonable due.  Murphy’s Law asserts that if anything can go wrong, it will.  My tweak to that would be if anything can go wrong, it might.  The things that are within my control, I have a responsibility to have under control.  I am not talking about being a perfectionist or a control freak, but about stepping up and managing your life to reduce the general impact of Murphy’s Law in your life.  Where you have agency, you should own it.

Boundaries, Boundaries, Boundaries.  Let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no” (Matt. 5L37).  Being loving, kind, and presenting an authentic witness does not mean being a doormat.  Rigidity is also sub-optimal.  There are times when the right thing is to allow yourself to be inconvenienced on behalf of another.  There are also times to say, “no.”  Healthy boundaries have a good balance.  If you surround yourself with safe people, you can afford to have some flexibility in your boundaries.  If you have unsafe people in your life, you need firmer boundaries with those people.

There is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot (Ecc. 3:22).  There are two ways to do this.  1) Do something that is meaningful to you.  2) Find a way to make what you must do meaningful to you.  Even if you have your dream job, there will be days when you don’t feel like doing it.  That’s okay.  If it always feels miserable, you either need to find a way to find meaning and enjoyment in it or change careers.

YAHOO.  You Always Have Other Options.  Problems look big close up.  It is easy to get to a place of feeling trapped and without options.  This is a lie.  You always have other options.  Other options have costs and consequences, but you have choices you can make.

Hang on to what’s true.  The self-esteem movement has generally been regarded as a bust.  Giving everyone a trophy doesn’t prepare them for life.  We all still grow up with it asked of us “Are you good enough?  Do you have what it takes?”  Even if we were able to defer that until adulthood, the question is still there.  The world will continue to pose the question to you.  Further, I know my own failings.  I will speak particularly for the male experience.  Most men I meet have a combination of fear that I don’t have what it takes and a feeing that “I am bad.”  We don’t experience real transformation until we can internalize that I am accepted, imperfect as I am, whether I get any better or not.  If you can hang onto that truth, there is a lot of room for growth.

Quit comparing.  There is no peace to be found in comparing yourself with others.  Whether that is in regard to material possessions, career success, income, intellect, athletic ability, social skills, judgment, or any other way we compare ourselves.  There can be wisdom to be gained from others.  There can be cautionary tales to be observed in others.  Having said that, comparison is something to work against.  It will either keep you from contentment or invite judgmentalism.

Grieve your losses and keep finding your way forward.  You won’t get through this life without losses.  People you love will die.  Economic or career setbacks may come.  Hopes and dreams you had may not come to pass.  It is right to grieve your losses, but life is still for the living.  Don’t let your losses be how you define yourself and your life.

Thankfulness.  Blessings abound.  Focusing on thankfulness for everything that is good in your life increases your sense of wellbeing.

Heaven’s a julep on the porch (Punch Brothers).  The reference is to Julep by Punch Brothers which opens with the line “I died happy in my sleep.”  The story is about going through life with a partner to whom you are attached.  I maintain that having a secure relationship with your partner is a foretaste of heaven.


Who knows how long we get?  My dad died at 64; my sister at 60.  My mother is 96 and in good health, but her mother died at 40.  Whatever happens, I have been blessed more than any one man could ever deserve to be.  I will leave with this epitath:  “Thanks.  I had a good time.”[8]

[1] I have already had the experience of receiving the senior discount in Taco Bell without having to ask for it.

[2] I guess I should offer some explanation.  We have a third “daughter” who is no blood or legal relation to either of us, but calls us mom and dad.  Since my original plan was for 2.7 children, she is #2.7.

[3] The only thing that has ever put a wrench in that is COVID-19.

[4] Daughter 2.7 has one daughter, but they live across the country so we don’t see her much.

[5] One bi-product of this sheltering at home is that I have actually been able to experience times of not playing “beat the clock.”

[6] If I wrote this on a different day, it might have been a different list.  Here is what comes to me right now.

[7] I’m not sure about the origin of this (depending on your source it is either Goethe or Malcolm Forbes.  Character is how you treat the person who can do nothing for you (and/or is not in position to fight back).

[8] With a reference to Nick, my friend of 40 years.  I’d tell that whole story, but this is already longer than anyone is going to read on a blog post.