Don Williams
Photo by Justin Williams

Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, blogger, fiction writer, sometime TV commentator, and is the founder and editor emeritus of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan, a Golden Presscard Award from Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists, a best Commentary Award from SDC, Best Feature Writing from the Associated Press Tennessee Managing Editors, the Malcolm Law Journalism Prize from the Associated Press, Best Non-Deadline Reporting from the United Press International, Best Novel Excerpt from the Knoxville Writers Guild, a Peacemaker Award from the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, five Writer of the Month Awards from the Scripps Howard Newspaper chain, and many others. In 2011 he was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame. His 2005 book of journalism, Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes is under revision for a second printing, and he is at work on a novel and a book of journalism. His columns appear at and have been featured at many other well-known websites. To run his column, gratis, at your website, post this link to a dedicated spot: Need a speaker, panelist, tv commentator or teacher for your group or to lead a writing workshop, in your town? Email

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Aging baby boomers sing a new song
(Copyright by Don Williams, All rights reserved   09/05/2003)

We've gone and done it.

Gone and got ourselves old.

I can attest to this, as I fall near the young end of the baby-boomer generation--children of lusty soldiers and home-front heroines who came together with such passion following WWII, they made so many babies they didn't know what to do.

So they changed the shape of the country, creating a bulge or boom of humanity that rolls through modern times altering America and the world. More schools, bigger auditoriums, new sights and sounds and foods and drugs to feed our affluent tastes.

Those at the front of that bulge are eyeing 60.

Those toward the back, like me, are staring 50 in the face.


I've managed to mess around and get myself a half-century old. And I'm going to celebrate it, like it or not, my family tells me.

Fifty's nothing, my older friends say, look at me. But that's not the tune they were singing when it happened to them I'll bet.

No doubt, they were taking the measure of this strange new milestone every which way, just as I am.

Let's see, I'm more than one-fifth the age of America.

I'm so ancient I was grown the year Elvis left the building for good.

I'm twice as old as my mother when she birthed me.

I'm older than several presidents when they took office.

I'm old enough to remember when "Talkin' Bout My Generation," by The Who, was a brand new song, and it's famous line, "Hope I d-d-die before I get old" didn't seem appalling.

Man, we're singing a different song now.

I betcha this very minute old Pete Townsend's working on his abs, doing some sort of cutting edge aerobic stomach-crunch workout. And I bet he's singing the, "T-t-take those vitamins before ya get old," song.

Bet he's singing the pump-iron, song.

The, walk, run and bike a long ways down the road, song.

The, lay off the carbs and hydrogenated oils, song.

The, get that blood-work done, song.

The, grin and bare it when the doctor says, "Bend over," song.

Oh the indignity of age.

Still, I've known for some time something that never occurred to me as a youngster--that getting old is not the worst thing that can happen to you. In fact, it's about the best thing that can possibly happen to anyone, if you consider the alternative. There's only one.

Maybe that's why, of all the many ways we mark the passage of time in this country, we celebrate two more than most.

One is New Year's, which I find to be a joyous time. The novelty of millions of people moving en masse into a new year is a birthday party for us all. Nothing grim about it for most of us.

The individual birthday is more complicated, at least for me. It brings me down man. I seldom feel like celebrating. To celebrate a birthday is akin to being pushed through a chute that leads to, well, I'd rather not talk about it.

I don't know whether that's a rational response or not. I tell myself that bit about how getting older is the best possible thing, and make it a point to give thanks because giving thanks is the best way I've found to be happy, and I've much to be thankful for. I've never felt younger, what with the running, biking, swimming and climbing mountains--even if they're relatively little ones. Why, I can do things I could never do at 20, and I do them surrounded by wonderful human beings. I should celebrate every day.

Just not on my b-b-birthday.

But that's antisocial, and my family is having none of it. You WILL celebrate your birthday, they tell, and you'll like it.