Having birthdays and feeling something-ish

Candle   A local college basketball team honored its seniors before the final home game last weekend. Players and parents walked onto the floor to receive a gift.

Another writer sitting next to me looked at the families on the court and said, “Wow. I’m now older than some of the players’ parents. How did this happen?”

Yeah, how?

Several friends and family members have had birthdays recently. One friend celebrated her daughter turning 6 months old and noted: “She’s gotten so big, so fast!“

Then there’s Janet, the lady in the nursing home. Janet (not her real name because of privacy laws) recently turned 90-something-ish (can’t give her exact age because of privacy laws). She told me: “I never thought I’d be this old!“

Janet then asked my age, which is 50-something-ish (privacy laws, wink wink). When I told her, she said, “Oh, you’re so young! You’re just getting started!” And she meant it.

You have to love Janet.

Isn’t it interesting how this aging thing is so subtle and goes on without our notice most days? Then one of those numbers jumps off the calendar and gets our attention.

And we say: What? When did this happen?

I really enjoy my birthdays because I get to hear from friends and I feel a little extra special for a day. Otherwise, my date of birth is mostly just a number I write on forms.

Long ago, I gave up the counting part. Sometimes when people ask my age, I have to stop and think.

It was different growing up. I was excited to turn 16 because I could drive. Turning 18 meant I had more privileges, and also had to register for the draft for the Vietnam war. Twenty-one meant I was a full-fledged adult — well, in the legal sense. I’m still trying to become an adult in many ways.

The only birthday that really threw me was when I turned 30. I grew up hearing that my generation shouldn’t trust anyone over that age. Turning 30 meant becoming, well, one of them. No longer the youngest generation.

The night before my 30th birthday, I got home from work late, poured myself a birthday beer, plopped down on my lumpy St. Vincent de Paul couch, and watched the hands on my mantle clock work their way to the top of the dial.

At midnight, the clocked chimed 12 times and stopped. Silence. And I remember thinking: Huh! I don’t feel any different. Nothing’s really changed. Just a number.

Mostly, it’s been that way for me since.

There was one little speed bump, when I turned 53. My dad died of a heart attack at that age. His lifelong chain smoking had irreparably damaged his heart and lungs.

Even though he was so very young, there’s something odd about turning the age that a parent died.

Occasionally, I get a sense of growing older, accompanied by a moment of sufficient panic. Anything can bring it on: noticing another age spot, hearing that a friend has cancer, getting another letter from the AARP hunting me down to join.

In those times, I feel a bit like Dorothy in the witch’s castle, watching the sands in the hourglass slip down oh-so-quickly while the flying monkeys hover outside the door. I get an urge to run off and go do a bunch of things on my bucket list all at once.

Maybe jump out of a plane while making a painting and landing in time to watch the opening day parade. (The trick there would be to stick the landing without tearing the canvas or getting run over by one of the floats.)

Then I take a deep breath and remind myself to relax and just enjoy the ride, however long it lasts.

A few months ago, I came up with an idea. I decided that as I sipped my nice glass of red wine each night, I should think about my day and thank the Giver of Days for all that happened in it.

Perhaps the prayer would go something like this:

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Today was great. Well, except for the crazy parts. OK, even the crazy parts. I’m grateful for all of it. Can we do it again? A little less craziness would be appreciated, but either way is OK. One more time? Thanks again.

The problem is that I have trouble actually remembering to say the prayer. Many days, I’m just tired or distracted, and I forget. I hope that God understands it’s not a lack of appreciation, but mere forgetfulness.

After all, I am 50-something-ish. And I think God would appreciate that part, what with being infinite-something-ish. Who knows? Maybe God has forgotten a few things along the way, too.

And probably has a stack of AARP letters so tall that it could serve as a stairway to heaven.

Author: joekay617

Feel free to add your thoughts and comments. Or you can reach me privately at joekay617@aol.com. Peace!

One thought on “Having birthdays and feeling something-ish”

  1. Joe, my mom died from cancer at age 53, and my dad had a heart attack at age 61. And yes, it’s weird when you have surpassed a parent’s odometer (I’m 56.) Your advice to thank the Giver of Days is well noted. Thanks for another great post!
    BTW, my financial consultants urge me to take any benefits as soon as possible given my lousy family health history…ok, then. But…it creates a sense of foreboding that I would prefer not to live with.

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