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  • Peggy Spear

Born to Grow Up


I saw the future of growing old and its name is Bruce Springsteen.


A few days ago, I was fortunate to finally watch the HBO+ Howard Stern interview with Springsteen. Before we get into Bruce, however, I have to say that I was incredibly impressed with Stern’s questions and comments. I used to hate Howard Stern but he’s just like me: a bit mellower, takes care of his 98-year-old mom, and starstruck by Bruce. It seems we’re all growin’ up.


The 90 or so minutes were a delightful conversation of how Bruce composes songs, “his art,” he says, how he is inspired to write the lyrics he does, what his therapist tells him -- no surprise, it has a lot to do with his relationship with his dad – and what it’s like to grow older. I mean, the man is 73.


But still with a cat-like grace – maybe not as quickly as he used to leap from speakers to floors – Bruce switched between guitars and the piano, showing his riffs and his deep thoughtfulness that goes into the songs he writes. He played part of “Kitty’s Back, “ “Growin’ Up,” “The Rising” and “Thunder Road,” among others. He also played what he called his greatest love song, an homage to his wife Patti Scialfa, who I used to hate until I read how supportive she was to Bruce when he went through a bad depression and anxiety period a few years ago – just like me. The song is “Tougher than the Rest,” and it means that even if you are not the handsomest, prettiest, richest (well, that’s hard to imagine with Springsteen), he – or she – will always be there for you. When he played that it was about the fourth time I cried that night watching the show, and appreciated my own rock -- my husband Tony -- more than ever.


When Stern asked Bruce about growing old, he shrugged. “It’s going to happen to everyone,” he said, adding something like “you just keep doing what you love.” Then he told a cute story of his daughter, a huge Taylor Swift fan, who insisted Bruce listen to Swift’s new album. “She danced all the way home from the airport, but it was good,” he said. “She’s passionate about something. It doesn’t matter what kind of music it is…”


I am having trouble growing old. I’m closer to 60 than 50 these days, and the worst thing about it – for me – is the loss of motherhood. But looking at Bruce continue to live out his passion, while learning to be a good parent and husband, made me realize I am not just a mom. I am a me. I have passions I want to live out, and yes many of them do involve staying as active as possible with my grown children – when they want and need me – and if they are blessed with kids of their own.


I have to dig deep and discover my other passions, even if it’s just listening to “Jungleland” 20 times to go to sleep. At least these days I can just put it on repeat on my iPhone and not have to get up and change the stereo stylist back to the beginning of the song each time it ends.


I know have other passions hiding in me. They are not as obvious as Bruce’s, although he says he’s getting into photography – something I’d like to do. Bruce and I are still on the same wavelength.


Losing my identity of “Mom” has been jarring. It kept me going when I faced perceived failures as a writer and editor, and God forbid, made a mistake. After all, I was still a good, busy mom. But now I have to own my mistakes all by myself.


Bruce obsesses over his mistakes, just like I do. And these days, I make a ton of mistakes. Sometimes I can’t even write a vulnerable email to my kids, without it blowing up and someone calling me passive/aggressive. I find that phrase like “Gaslighting.” I really don’t know what it means and don’t mean to do it.


I know, like Bruce, I will write as long as I can. I will never retire from writing, somehow. I don’t know what I’ll be writing, and I hope it’s a lot of things. That’s what I love. That is a passion.


I love my family, I love my friends, I love Thai foot massages – especially in Thailand – and I love my recovery program. I don’t love learning new technology – it intimidates me. My Facebook profile has been down for two months because I can’t get a straight answer about how to fix my problem. I want to talk to a human being or a nice bot.


And I fear being alone. That may happen. It happened to my mom, sort of, but that’s a story for another day.


I wonder if Bruce feels he has gone on too long writing a song? I think it’s time for me to stop, open the dreaded refrigerator, see about dinner, and prove to Tony that I’m tougher than the rest.


[If you’re a Springsteen fan – or even if you’re not – try to catch the Howard Stern interview on HBO+. And be sure to enjoy Springsteen’s latest CD, “Only the Strong Survive,” a cover album of R&B and soul classics – even the Commodores! And no, I’m not paid by his trust.]

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