The Fourth Quarter

The Fourth Quarter

I ran into a childhood friend recently, and we caught up on the last 40+ years of life. Two marriages, two divorces, five kids, four grandchildren, the death of parents, possible retirement, turning 60 (we’re both stressing over that a bit), and finally, what’s next? We didn’t say much about what’s next. It seems neither of us is sure. We discussed all of that in 45 minutes.

During our 45 minute conversation, my friend commented that at 60, we’re starting the fourth-quarter of our lives, the metaphor being football quarters. Of course, I’ve heard that before, but it struck me with more poignancy this time because, well, it’s my fourth-quarter. And, frankly, the first three quarters have me exhausted. I hear the Patriots are famous for their fourth-quarter comebacks due to a hill near their practice field the players refer to as that “f___” hill. That hill is where they run, conditioning themselves for a fourth-quarter edge. When their fourth-quarter comes, they aren’t exhausted. Running, the Patriots believe, wins the game.

I found my friend refreshing because he admitted that when retirement comes, he isn’t sure what to do. He wondered out loud how he would spend his time. He mentioned a few hobbies, his kids, and so on, but he was clear about one thing—he was tired. “I’ve worked at the same place for 30+ years, and girl, this old boy is tired,” he said.

I was glad for his honesty. I really am over the whole bucket list mentality.

After our meeting, I googled,  “Worse three football quarters ever then a win in the fourth inning.” Yes, I typed inning, but Google knew what I meant.

The Buffalo Bills comeback in the fourth quarter against the Houston Oilers on January 3, 1993, is so famous it is simply referred to as The Comeback. Lagging by 32 points, the score was 35-3 at the start of the fourth quarter. The Buffalo Bills won by gaining 38 points going into overtime. The final score was 41-38. It’s like they woke up and thought, oh yeah, we’re playing a football game. We need to play. I find that impressive. I’m sure if I had watched that game, I’d have cheered them on excitedly, but for my fourth-quarter, I’m not interested in huge wins. I want to play with the grandchildren, take long leisurely walks with the dog, and drink coffee mid-day on the porch while visiting with friends.

I started a bucket list of what I don’t want to do in my fourth-quarter. Here it is.

  • I don’t want to run a marathon.
  • I don’t want to wear ridiculous looking bicycle shorts.
  • I don’t want to join a gym. (They smell.)
  • I don’t want to climb Mt. Everest.
  • I don’t want to run for politics.
  • I don’t want to ride motorcycles.
  • I don’t want to go to a nude beach.
  • I don’t want to go volcano boarding.
  • I don’t want to get a tattoo.
  • I don’t want to skydive, scuba dive, or jump off of coral reefs.

I want to breathe deep. Sleep late. Stretch wide. Work the kinks out. Take naps. Eat carbs. Listen to silence. Let go.

I want to take my time.

And, maybe see the Northern Lights or a Broadway musical.

I don’t want to end the fourth quarter mad at anyone or anyone be mad at me. I’d like to forgive and be forgiven. I’d like to learn how to love well. I want to laugh and have dance parties with my grandchildren.

You get the idea. This old girl is tired.

I looked up people who became successful after 60. Two examples stood out, Judi Dench (as if she wasn’t always Judi Dench), and the guy who wrote the thesaurus, Peter Mark Roget. Roget compiled lists of words to help him combat his depression. One list was synonyms, today’s Roget’s Therasus, which he published when he was 73. You gotta love that guy. Who doesn’t love a thesaurus? Who doesn’t understand saying, I’m going to make lists now? Not a bucket list, but a list nonetheless.

My friend confessed he’s afraid of sixty. There’s a strained relationship with his youngest child; she blames him for the mistakes all parent’s make. His mother died this past fall. He’s cleaning out her house, sorting through his childhood while his daughter tells him what he did wrong in her’s. Medical insurance is expensive in retirement–1500 dollars a month– a mortgage payment. Then there’s the question of what his days will look like. “I don’t mind telling you,” he said, “60 is hitting me hard.”

I’m not looking for more years or more youth.

I’m looking to set records straight. Make peace. Make room. Forget grudges. Reconnect. Connect. Reconcile.

I’m looking for what I looked for in every new decade, love. Before my kid’s heads pop up, I don’t mean just romantic love. The older I get, the more I know that all love is love. I want to spend my fourth quarter loving friends, family, and community. Comebacks and late-in-life successes make for great reads, but my encounter with my friend reminded me that human connection is what we crave, what I crave. The world tells me I’m as young as I feel, to shoot for the comeback, to make that bucket list. My friend reminded me that it’s okay to be vulnerable.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want my fourth-quarter to be all highlight reels, but there’s a couple of places in my history I need to revisit, mostly to say I’m sorry or to check in and see how someone is doing after years apart, to remember and make new — less of a fourth-quarter and more of a full circle.

Still, if I’m honest, I am hoping for a few spectacular moments, maybe even a Hail Mary.