“When I'm 64” came out in 1967 but the first time I heard it was right after New Years in 1968, sitting in a bar waiting to be shipped out to the end of Earth. It wasn’t like I hadn’t spent my whole life getting to this point, going through the years of military school and rising in my father’s shadow. If it weren’t for having a line of high ranking men in my family, the army wouldn’t have taken a second glance at me, just passed me along as some fresh meat lieutenant that they were sending out to kill.
Evidently they barely took a second glance, because there I was sitting with some of the guys I was shipping out with, all young and inexperienced, and from what I had heard from Walter Cronkite, about to die.
Still we danced with all the pretty girls there and as the night went on and we lost more of ourselves, there came about an agreement. We were all going to the same unit and you needed some friends in hell, so now the six of us were friends. A bargain struck while we listened to the same song over and over again.
The next morning, someone went out and bought the record for Sgt Pepper. We took it along with us with the hope we’d land somewhere with a record player, joking that we were all Irish so the luck surely had to be with us.
For all the time that we were over there, we listened to the record and cared for it like it was a baby. People joined us and also left us, but the same six who came over together in the shaky airplane from the shaky bar were still there.
When we got home we made a similar kind of truce, to stick together and meet up every ten years. And to have a big thing go on whenever one of us reached 64, in honor of the song that brought us together.
64 for most of the party was forty years away but not all of us made it, the bad dreams of the past caught up with two of them with twenty years. One day they were living and getting ready for a surprise party, and the next all we say was their mangled bodies in a wreck along the highway. That was good bye for Jones and Bauer.
A decade later Carren and Kelly left us as well, leaving behind so many people and going up to meet with so many others.
It was left to me and to O’Reilly, and this year we both turned 64, the only ones who managed to stick around for the duration. I knew he was getting sick, the side effect of smoking three packs a day and being loose with life in every shape and form. I was there with Molly when he passed and even though it wasn’t the first time I had held a dying friend in my arms, I certainly hope it will be the last.
We hold this funeral and memorial in honor of Jim, but I think we all know that the last thing he would be wanting us to do right now is cry. He was a good man and everyone here can swear to that. And out of all the things that I can swear to is that we fulfilled the promise we made in 1968, when we were 64.