On Turning 50

Steve second grade

This weekend, I turned 50.  Everybody has a birthday (if they’re fortunate to still be living).  And birthdays are really just another day.  But turning 50 just seems different.  My kids have noted that I’m now a half-century.  Lots of people before me have turned 50.  But again, it just seems different.  Obviously our American culture seems to make a “deal” out of turning 50.

Try Google-searching book titles with the phrase “turning 50” and you’ll see all kinds of books on the subject: The Brand You 50, Forever 50, 50 Things to Do When You Turn 50, Turning 50: Fifty Personal Celebrations, Fifty Plus: Give Meaning and Purpose to the Best Time of Your Life. and 50 Ways to Leave Your 40s.

Now search the same phrase “turning 60” or “turning 40” and the results are a lot less.  My personal favorite from the search was the book You Know You’re Fifty When.  The book was printed as a “Special Large Print Edition”.  J  You know you’re turning fifty when…

  • “Incontinent” no longer means a large land mass.
  • You put on reading glasses to listen to books on tape.
  • You change a fuse and you feel it the next day.
  • You actually start to obey the “Don’t Walk” signal.
  • You’re considering a move to a gated community (and buying a Ford Crown Victoria).
  • When reading the obituaries, you don’t care who died, it’s how long they lived.

That last one is kind of sobering.  Speaking of turning 50, “you know you’re fifty when…

  • “You find yourself researching life-expectancy data on the Internet”.

OK, I made that last one up.  But seriously.  There’s some INCREDIBLE data out there by the CDC.  Check out:


I can hear my wife saying “You’re the only 50-year-old looking at that data”.  OK…I’m a geek.  But humor me for a minute.  The average life expectancy of a white male born in 2008 is 75.6.  (The females get five extra years on us).  In 1900, that number was 46.  Between 1910-1920, the average life expectancy for white males hovered around 50.  However, in 1918, that number for males was 37 and for females it was 42.  Of course, further research will tell you that in 1918, a world-wide flu epidemic killed 50 million people.  One-fifth of the world’s population was attacked by that virus in 1918.  Plus, 16 million were killed in World War I. More fascinating information about the 1918 Flu Epidemic can be found at:


In 1963, the life expectancy for white males born (that would be me) was 67.  You could say, that’s my number.  Except it’s just a number.  And everybody is different.  Sometimes I’ve used a different aging system.  I could say that I’m 8-years-old, in Elvis years.  (Elvis died when he was 42 and I’ve surpassed that by 8).

The Psalmist in the Bible makes a general statement about aging when he says, “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures” (Ps 90:10)but again, that’s just an average.  (And Jesus’ 33 years were certainly above average!)

I have to admit that being diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma changes the game for me.  I’m actually relieved to turn 50.  (Who wants to die in their forties?)  According to a recent Wall Street Journal article (click here) that I referenced in my previous post, for someone diagnosed with MM in 2001, their life expectancy was 3.5 years.  In 2010 (the year I was diagnosed) the number was 7.5 years.  Now, in 2013, thanks to the number of new drugs being created and approved, many researchers are saying 10 years.

Again, the numbers don’t dictate anything, they are merely a reflection of a lot of different variables.  And as I always say, “your mileage may vary”.  Yes, I’m grateful to turn 50.   I’d be grateful to turn 60. But nobody reading this blog knows what they’re own “number” is.

Certainly, my focus continues to come from Scripture where the Psalmist continues to provide instruction:  “Teach us to number our days so that we may truly live and achieve wisdom.” (Ps 90:12)

I also appreciate some other wisdom nuggets:

“It’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” Abraham Lincoln

“None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.”  Henry David Thoreau

Thanks for all of the birthday wishes!  I think I’ll go home to eat some fiber and watch PBS!





  1. kerry rainey

    50 is a nice round number. LOTS of people would have loved to live to be 50. I’m past 60 now, and headed towards 70 if my heart will make it and the cancer doesn’t return. Those of us who have experienced close calls should learn to appreciate each and every day more thoroughly than those fortunate few who have no health issues at all seems to me. So I’m trying, and I know you are redeeming the days as well. Steve, hang in there and enjoy your many sons and daughter and wife! You ARE blessed, despite the MM.

  2. Jeff-Nancy

    Awesome!! Happy 50th Steve!! You’re the best! We wish you many more healthy years! And thanks for the articles from 1918. Interesting stuff. Blessings!

  3. Jim Rice

    Love reading your stuff Steve. I smile a lot and realize we are very similar in a number of ways. I turned 50 in Costa Rica. They make a huge deal of it there. It is the declared birthday when you pass from being young to being and adult. (joven/adulto) Friends from church threw a wonderful party with many Tico friends in attendance. It was great and the photo of me in the Alabama uniform with the crystal football came from that event. Happy belated birthday!! The Lord is good!!

  4. Faith Kensell

    Steve, so glad to hear from you and we’re so happy to wish you a very HAPPY, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! God is so good, isn’t he? I’m sure u had a wonderful day, with your wonderful family. God bless you all.

  5. Chris Conrad

    Happy 50th, friend! What’s funny is that I’m three years younger than you and yet I look 3 years older than you!! You look amazing for 50 and I’m so glad that you are putting up such a fight to what you have been experiencing. My ongoing prayer is that you will experience total 100% healing and will be around until you’re 80 (and I look 90)!

    Believing in you,


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