Guest Post: My Father’s Child is Turning 65

This Guest Post is an opinion piece by Jim Sollisch that I read in the Wall Street Journal on June 16, 2023.  I found it both compelling and poetic, and reached out to Jim who gave me his permission to share it with you.  Jim does a better job than I can expressing what I often ponder: “I am now in my 60’s and still feel like I’m a young man (I don’t get it.)”  I added the picture, created with Bing AI. Thanks, Jim!

My Father’s Child is Turning 65

By Jim Sollisch, LinkedIn

I was 33 when my father died, but in my grief I felt like a small child, not an adult who already had children. It’s taken me years to understand that I was a child, even longer to grasp that I will be a child forever because time is an acid-tripping, unreliable narrator.

In the days and weeks after my father died, every time I saw a person in his 60s, I had this sequence of thoughts: He sees me and remembers when he was my age. He can’t believe how fast 30 years went by. I’ll be 65 before I know what hit me. And then I’ll be dead. I’ll never squeeze enough out of this life because time is rushing like a high-speed train I can’t stop.

That was my life-is-short logic loop. And I got stuck in it. For most of the next year, I hurtled down time’s track several times a day toward the moment of my future death. Yet time also kept to its normal schedule, in which each hour consists of 60 minutes and the calendar functions perfectly, and my children learned to tie their shoes and throw a ball and ride a bike. I watched like a ghost from my deathbed. I was Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day,” which wouldn’t be released for a couple of years. What did I have to do to leave this future in which I was always about to die? I had no idea.

At some point my mind released me. I exited the train. I was 33 now for most of the day, and I could mourn my father without fear.

And here I am, a few blinks later, turning 65, the same age my father was when he died.

I am not afraid I will die this year. I don’t feel I am passing a milestone. I expected that I would surpass my father’s age of death, but I didn’t expect to feel grief. In this year when we have become the same age, I feel as if I am losing my father again. Even though I have been fatherless for 32 years, he was always ahead of me, showing me the way. He was older. Because fathers are older than their children. If I am older, is he still my father? Welcome to my new logic loop.

I see my father on the train station, platform 65, waving to me as I hurtle past. I am traveling alone the rest of the way. Time is a bandit. Again.

And now I realize how young my father was when he died. That he craved all the joys and temptations he always had. That his insecurities hadn’t expired because he reached a certain birthday. Now I know that the voice inside his head was still youthful and rebellious, that time in all its trickery lets old people walk around forever young inside, their core selves immune from life’s chronology even as their bodies bend and twist and their hands spot with age. Now I know that we are all children still, dressed in our costumes of age, time’s makeup perfectly applied.


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