Today, I am turning 71 years old. How the heck did that come about? Just a few years ago (six, to be exact), I was starting Older Eyes – Bud’s Blog with a post called Feeling Old in which I complained about the growing reminders of my age and the specter of the limited number of years left. At seventy-one there are more reminders and fewer years. The theme of Older Eyes was to be Reflections from an Older Perspective, a commentary on aging, both the negatives and the positives. The scale seems to be shifting but I consider myself a lucky man to be able to say that the positives still outweigh the negatives. So, I thought on this occasion of my (gasp) seventy-first birthday, I’d have a little fun with the number seventy-one, mostly courtesy my favorite blogging reference, Wikipedia.
It turns out that 71 is the 20th prime number and is also a permutable prime, which means that any permutation of its digits (in this case only 17) is also prime. That is an interesting coincidence because when my digits are switched, I am also prime. 71 is also a Chen prime because 71+2=73 is also prime and one of the largest known pair of Brown’s Numbers, (7, 71) because 71²=7!+1. Even after 71 years, I am an engineer not a mathematician because I haven’t a clue why anyone would care about such things, much less name them. Wikipedia says that a standard English keyboard can produce 71 characters if you don’t count capital letters, but I’ve counted on my keyboard a dozen times (I can be a bit obsessive) and get 68. 69 if I count the space bar. Go figure. 71 is the atomic number of the rare earth, lutetium, which I’ve never heard of. Obviously, I am not a chemical engineer.
It turns out pop singer, Joe Cocker, would have been 71 today if he hadn’t died last year. I’ve always loved his duet with Jennifer Warnes, Up Where We Belong. Yes, I remain a romantic old coot. Boudewijn de Groot, the Indonesian-Dutch singer-songwriter and guitarist (surely you’ve heard of him!) and Dietrich Mateschitz, the Austrian businessman, co-founded Red Bull are also 71 today. On my birthdate in 1944, a group of officers from the German Army attempted an assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler by exploding a bomb in his headquarters during a staffing meeting. I Love You, by Bing Crosby, was number one on Billboard. My Dad, Frank, was stationed in Italy with the Army Air Corps and I was living with my Mom, Florence, at her parents house. A long time ago.
I told someone recently that I feel I’ve had a charmed life. So many good things have come my way with what seems, in hindsight, like not very much effort. A benefit of age … one of my favorite benefits of age … is perspective, in this case perspective that the big deals of the past don’t look so big in the rearview mirror. That perspective helps me realize that today’s big deals … yes, I still have them … are perhaps not as big as they seem. And that I will be guided through them because I am not … and never have been … a self-made man, in spite of what the forty year old who lives in my head would have me believe.