turning fifty

I just read a thoughtful piece about turning fifty on a friend’s webpage. It reminded me of mine as well as all the questions we all have about aging. Fifty’s a major turning point for most of us. Mine was celebrated as I would have wished it and saddened by what happened.  When I told my partner Michael I missed him celebrating my 40th birthday he went out of his way putting together an extravagant affair to celebrate my 50th at the John Pence Gallery The art gallery on Post Street features modern representational art, my favorite. A lovely woman his good friend Rochelle agreed to the catering and they came up with an amazing spread of delicious food, fine wine and champagne.  The birthday cake was a carrot cake, my favorite.

At the same time Michael was dying of AIDS.  After three weeks in Kaiser diagnosed with MAC, he shared a room with two others in a dreadful nursing home long enough to regain enough strength in his atrophied legs to walk a few steps. Finally he came home on a stretcher his one desire.  The birthday party was planned for Sunday.  I spent the week before thinking of ways Michael could attend, maybe finding a chaise he could lie on.  Michael loved entertaining although he’d never say anything about what he did to make his dinner and parties memorable. His joy was other people enjoying themselves.  He invited all our friends and folks I worked with raising money for the new library to the birthday party. My father and step mother were flying in. I knew Michael would love the party and hoped something like being there would strengthen his body and he’d live a few months longer.

Rochelle was with me when Michael died early Saturday morning.  We agreed to go ahead with the birthday party in his honor on Sunday.  With a room full of friends and family I wasn’t short on hugs, just Michael.  I hope he knew what he had done for our friends and family.

The fifties for me were years of maturity.  I worked hard and accomplished a lot in my forties.  The next decade was learning to live with the reality of Michael’s death, trying and failing at a relationship and realizing the most important thing for me was myself. They set me up for my sixties which so far have been better than anything I could have hoped for with a new relationship and a life as a writer.

2 Responses to turning fifty

  1. Rochelle November 18, 2010 at 6:06 pm #

    Charlie – that was tender and warming. Yes, the 50s were a very special time in our lives.

    I love you, Charlie!

  2. Armkabob December 23, 2010 at 12:07 pm #

    Michael was the quintessential “man’s man.” As a landscape architect, he was able to channel his nurturing nature, using man-sized hands, into plants & welcoming spaces. He also provided the stability & strength needed to produce a wonderful adult, Seth, raised by both Chuck & him. I never saw him in a bad mood. When he came to visit me at Fire Island, everyone he met fell in love with him. When I would visit them in SF, I could not have possibly been made to feel more welcome.

    I often wonder whether recalling the sublime nature of love, after it is gone, is better than never having to face that loss, in blessed ignorance. This is the dilemma in the “Fisher King Legend” in “Parsifal.” The answer depends on who we are. Some of us can move on from Camelot. Others, not so much. Like Chuck, I have enjoyed my 60’s, but the hollowness remains palpable.

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