Help, I’m turning 60!

March 29, 2015 Howard Kenyon No comments exist

I don’t really remember the day I was born, but I know it was April 17, 1955. Well, I don’t really know except that my parents told me I was born on that date. It is on my birth certificate, and why else would I choose that date to celebrate my birthday?
Nikita Khrushchev is the only famous person I know of born on April 17. But now they say his Soviet records are wrong. He was born on April 15. Who knew? Even the old shoe-banger didn’t really take to the 17th. My childhood heroes are all so disappointing.
This year I turn 60. Go easy on the cheers – my ears are getting old. When I was a kid, 60 seemed very old. The one advantage to being 60 is that 60 no longer seems as old as it once did. I guess that is good enough reason to move toward 70, keep making those big numbers seem small. Well, it’s a reason, if not a good one.
I work with a lot of volunteers at our food pantry who are in their 70s, 80s, even 90s. There are lots of good reasons for having such old volunteers around. For one, being retired, they have more time to volunteer. For another, they make me feel younger. Who wants to work with a bunch of 20-somethings always reminding you that your life is history?
Every year my birthday dances around Easter, but it has fallen on Easter only once – when I was 5. I got the largest Easter basket ever on my 5th birthday. Lots of candy. It won’t happen again – my birthday falling on Easter – until 2022 when I will be 67 and too old for lots of candy. I think it happens one more time on 2033 when I will be 78, even older. Go figure.
For my birthday, I prefer pie to cake. Well, I prefer pie to cake any day. I like pudding even better, but sticking candles in pudding is tricky business. Especially when you get 60 candles. 60 candles on a bowl of pudding is not a smart idea.
Turning 50 in China

Turning 60 is a big deal in China. I lived in China when I turned 50. Fifty is not a significant birthday in China. Only 60, 70, and 80 are. But I am no longer in China and what is 60 to someone living in Oregon? My sense of timing is way off

When I first went to China people used to guess that I was in my 20s, even though I was 35, or 40. I knew it was time to leave when a stranger guessed my correct age – 50. Soon they’d be thinking I was 70 when I was 60. And that is not a good thing. Even if 70 is a special birthday in China.

Sixty really isn’t that big a deal. Sure, you can get discounts at more places than you used to. But discounts are overrated. 
In the past, I really enjoyed going to Goodwill. Where else can you get someone else’s useless junk at such cheap prices? Even better, those cheap Goodwill prices have discount rates for old people. The last time I went to Goodwill, the clerk offered me the senior discount without asking me my age. Sure I was old enough, but she should not have assumed it.
So, what is up with being 60 except that I am closer to being 90 than I am to being 29? Are you kidding?! Maybe age isn’t all that newsworthy, except that I am still alive and doing just fine, thank you.
What do I want for my birthday, other than pudding or pie? Those of you that have been around me the past five years know what I want. Cooking oil. Lots of it.
Five years ago, just after I turned 55, I started working as a manager at a food pantry serving people in need. That food pantry has served over 55,000 different people the past 13 and a half years, one out of every 11 people in our fair city of Portland. A high percentage of the people we serve are recent immigrants, especially from China and Eastern Europe.
I speak Chinese, Mandarin that is, so I really enjoy meeting our older Chinese clients, the ones who know only a few words of English. They love to greet me in Mandarin and talk with me like old friends. And they invariably ask me if we have any cooking oil, being as cooking oil is a big deal in Chinese cooking.
For the past four years I’ve been asking friends to send me money on my birthday to buy cooking oil for my Chinese neighbors – and other neighbors – in need. It’s a quirky birthday present, to be sure. But it means a whole lot to me to be able to tell my Chinese friends that we have oil for them. In Mandarin, it sounds something like “Yo Yo!”
So for my 60th birthday on April 17, would you please help me say “Yo Yo”? A case of cooking oil, enough for 12 families, costs about $17 – or you can send me an amount more becoming my age, say, $60.
Go ahead, make my day!
To give, go online to Be sure to check “Northeast Emergency Food Program”. Or send a check to “Northeast Emergency Food Program” at 4800 NE 72ndAvenue, Portland, OR 97218. Make sure you designate it for my birthday – and I’ll be sure to buy cooking oil with it for our neighbors in need. For more info on what we do at NEFP, go to

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