Messages fill my inbox and Facebook feed. 62 years and 9 months ago I began my existence.
Even if you are on a deserted island, you feel the rumblings of your day. A birthday nurtures the classic phrase: Can’t live with ‘em — can’t live without ’em. Each of us deals differently with the specifics of that personal anniversary, though some key similarities bind us.
I remember past celebrations — some more difficult than others.
My parents cancelled my birthday party when I was eight years old because of my bad behavior when I was seven. I marked my half century
with the making of a video, which helped smooth my entry into the 51st. And, on my 52nd, I wrote in chalk on our sidewalk for one mile — memories of my mom (who’d just passed) .
I have visuals etched into my mind of positive birthdays too:
- The cards my son made for me with cut outs, pop ups, and drawings;
- The special events my partner created for me; and
- The childhood birthday parties at Huntington Beach, California — the day spent riding the waves, eating watermelon, and sunburning the my very pale little shoulders.
Thanks to Facebook, elementary school friends mixed with individuals I’d just met overseas to help me enjoy the day. Family members from Suriname and the Netherlands sent digital flowers, cakes, and an occasional song. While one friend added a note about an upcoming high school reunion, another made a multimedia presentation featuring photos of his friends with August birthdays.
This year, squeezed between the “Happy Birthdays” and “Best wishes” came comments, references, and links decrying the events surrounding Charlottesville, VA. It served as a sobering reminder of who each of us is in the greater scheme of life and uniquely marked 2017.
Computer technology can feel cold and conceptual. Nothing compares to the feeling of a birthday hug as my partner wrapped his arms around me early in the morning. He struggled to find something to serve as a present and felt frustrated with my lack of appreciation for the traditional. How could I eschew gifts properly wrapped in birthday paper? For his own day of days, he insists on cakes with traditional icing and left me to enjoy a birthday blueberry muffin.
The last 12 months were like no other. I had two hips replaced and traveled outside the country twice. I worked in association with refugees from Syria, went on a safari, saw the Parthenon and the pyramids. I lost a father-in-law, watched my partner suffer the symptoms of lyme disease and go through a heart attack. Like every period of 365 days, we experience both good and bad. It’s hard to reflect on this year without recognizing it was something different.
The years that came after the half-century mark reminded me of my parents and grandparents — not me and my cohort. What the hell happened? How’d we get this old this fast? Now, I understand why my father often said, “I may be 60, but I look through the same eyes I had when I was 19.”
My friend told me I’m looking good for 65. I am only 62.
I told myself I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in, but when I compared the older to the younger version, I knew I lied.
I have signs of good health:
- My replaced hips have complete range of motion and great strength. I’m bike riding 15 miles in the morning and swimming a quarter-mile in the afternoon;
- I can keep pace walking with my younger counterparts; and
- I’ve expanded my writing objectives to strive for paid publications.
I have signs of older age:
- My partner suggested we go to a local club to hear the Blues at nine p.m. I begged out — I was too tired and went to bed at 10;
- I ask my friends for rides at night as developing cataracts effect my vision; and
- I substitute the word “thing” too often for objects that have more descriptive names. Umbrella. Coffee mug. Computer mouse. Sunglasses. Envelope. The list is long.
I am not Madonna (59), with whom I share the birth date. Photos of Madonna and her six children and images of her riding to her Italian birthday party on a horse made the news. I do not have any photographic record of the movie and dinner my son, my partner, and I enjoyed that night.
My partner reminded me, “You’re 62 — old enough to apply for social security.” Yes, there are gains from turning 62.
I’m just the right age for the Senior (62+) Lifetime Pass to the National Parks (scheduled to increase from $10 to $80 on August 28).
I qualify for some of the movie discounts, some of the senior meals on the back of restaurant menus, and some of the senior days at the local grocery stores. But, I am too old to receive my first invitation to join AARP and too young for Medicaid and all its alphabetical parts.
I’ve given up trying to argue with the 17-year-old at Culver’s, the place I occasionally indulge in a root beer float. She always gives me the senior discount just because as she says, I “look the part.”
In Africa, Tanzanians greet the grey-haired set with the Swahili “Shikamoo Mama!” a phrase to show respect to one’s elders. I responded with the appropriate, “Mara Habaa” and felt pride that I’d made to 62. Tanzanians also refer to women in association with the child she birthed (in my case, I am Mama Lane) or, if a grandmother, by the name, “Bibi.” I refused the latter. Technically I’m not a granny and the reference felt way over the top.
And we wish.
My father insisted we not blow out candles on the birthday cake when making a wish due to the germs we would spit onto the cake top. Only last week did scientists show my father to be ahead of his time. I will make my wish but without the spit.
Over the years, my hopes and dreams have silently come together for a bike (granted), a baby brother (not), and world peace (hah!). I have learned over the 62+ years not to be too grandiose. Stick to that which you know and possibly have a hand in. Still, once a year, particularly this year, it seems appropriate to wish for something big. I’m reminded of the conversation between two of the Little Rascals:
“I wish for a watermelon.” “Wish for something big.” “I wish for a BIG watermelon.”
So, my big wish this 62nd year:
May all beings be peaceful.
May all beings be happy.
May all beings be safe.
May all beings awaken to
the light of their true nature.
May all beings be free.
(Buddhist Loving Kindness Prayer)
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Judy O Haselhoef, a social artist, story-teller, and author of “GIVE & TAKE: Doing Our Damnedest NOT to be Another Charity in Haiti,” blogs regularly at her website, www.JOHaselhoef.com.
Copyright @2017: If you’d like to use any part of it (up to 200 words), please give full attribution and this website, www.JOHaselhoef.com.