The song remains the same, but his age has reached it

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The view of the spires framing the glass towers of Two Liberty Place can only be seen from a certain spot on Arch Street.

Paul McCartney was only 16 when he wrote a song about old age called "When I'm Sixty-Four." It was a bouncy, optimistic music-hall ditty that seemed so strikingly weird for the times that we teenage rock-and-roll fans thought it must be wise.

"When I'm Sixty-Four" first appeared on the Beatles' classic album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in June 1967. That was the same month I graduated from Lower Merion High School by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin.

Sixty-four to me was an unimaginable lifetime away. I was 17 and free at last! So my first decision as a free man was to enlist in the Navy like my older brother before me. But the Navy wouldn't take me because I had braces on my teeth. Who knew?

To my mother's dismay, I signed up for the draft on my 18th birthday. (Spoiler alert: I do live through this.) And then 1968 happened: Tet, Martin, Bobby, "The whole world is watching," followed by the election of Richard Milhous Nixon.

Nineteen-sixty-eight was my deus ex machina year. The sleeper had awakened. I decided to go to college instead of war. And for that I am thankful.

I want to give thanks in this column on the last day of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. My birthday usually falls just before Thanksgiving, but I've never consciously linked the significance of the two days until last week and my 64th birthday.

I want to thank my parents and the universe for giving me life and allowing me to survive 64 years so I could now sing, "When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now," while still having all my hair. Well, most of it.

I give thanks for the words and music of Bruce Springsteen, who will always be two months older than me.

I give thanks for Benjamin Franklin, who began and ended each day with the same questions. "What good shall I do this day?" he asked in the morning. "What good have I done today?" he asked in the evening.

I am thankful for the question asked by Sam Lancia, owner of Philadelphia Sam's cheesesteak shop, during a party after the Philadelphia premier of Rocky V. "Clark, what are the two most important things in life?" Sam asked.

The way he said it, I knew he was about to share something profound. "Self-respect and a clear conscience," Sam said. Hard as I've tried, I have yet to improve on those words.

I am thankful for the eternal grace of Philadelphia's architecture, which, even after a lifetime of familiarity, continues to surprise me with unexpected beauty. That view of the stone spires of the Masonic Temple framing the glass tower of Liberty Two can only be seen from a certain spot at street level on Arch Street just west of 13th.

I give thanks to Tug McGraw and Chase Utley for finding the words we were all thinking after each of the Phillies' World Series victory parades.

"New York can take this world championship and stick it!" shouted the Tugger in 1980 at JFK Stadium. (The Phillies beat the Kansas City Royals in the series, but McGraw was referring to Philly's playing second fiddle to New York teams for too many years.) In 2008, Chase greeted fans at Citizens Bank Park by shouting, "World f- champions."

How do you thank a city for a million laughs? Once, when the Eagles fell behind 17-0 to the Buffalo Bills to start the third quarter at the Vet, a fan in the 700 section stood up and bellowed like a Roman emperor, "More wine for my players!"

I am thankful for whatever they put in the drinking water that makes us pronounce the word wooder.

It's the small moments at home decades ago that I remember clearly. I am thankful for the memory of one snugly Saturday afternoon sitting on the sofa in the den with my 3-year-old son, Dan. All we could see from the second-floor window of our South Philadelphia rowhouse was the green leafy branches of a tree so close we could have been birds perching in it.

"Do you know who God is?" I asked. I don't know why, it just came out.

"He's a maker," Danny answered.

"And what does God make?" I asked.

"Oh," my son said, thinking about the possibilities. "Children. And toys. And sofa cushions."

That little boy is 42 now. His mother and I know the answers to two of the questions posed to the young girlfriend in McCartney's song: "Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm 64?"

Thank you, Sara.


Clark DeLeon's column appears regularly in Currents. deleonc88@aol.com