Birthdays

On February 5 (today or tomorrow, depending on where you are and when I post this), I will celebrate 70 years on this planet. It is an age I never expected to make, despite knowing that on average American males live longer than 70 years. My father died of cancer at 40, and for the years from age 17 (when he died) until I turned 41, I was sure I wouldn’t live as long as my father had. I have no idea why I had this idea, and it wasn’t all-consuming, but it was omnipresent anyway.

Most people remember “special birthdays” like 30, 40, 50, but the ones I can recall are listed below.

5, because I’ve always remembered the metal dump truck I got. This is the first one I remember for sure, especially because I remember that the truck was smashed when a couple weeks later I left it in the neighbor’s driveway and he ran over it.

12, because I got my first parakeet, a turquoise one. I kept adding them until at one point I had 37 of them (counting babies) in my bedroom. After a few years I sold them off, or they died, and I moved on to other things.

18, because my dorm buddies and I went out and bought a lot of beer and drank it by the river in Bakersfield. I don’t remember a lot of the rest of the night or the next day.

21, because I could throw away my fake ID card and get a real legal ID card to drink (I didn’t learn to drive until I was 23 since I didn’t have a car).

23, only because of back-dating. My first child, Andy, was born on November 5, and that was exactly 9 months after my birthday.

26, because that meant that I wouldn’t get drafted unless we got into a major war. I’d already been deferred because I’d been in graduate school, had a child, was married, and was working in education, but this made it as absolute as possible. The Vietnam War was going hot and heavy and getting to 26 was quite a relief.

30, because that made me officially “old”. This was in the days when many “hippies” and others said you should “never trust anyone over 30”. I never bought into that idea, but it somehow made that birthday significant.

48, as it was the first birthday since my 17th that I didn’t have one or many drinks on my birthday. I have continued without alcohol or other drugs since a month after my 47th birthday. This was also my first birthday with Gail.

51, because I was looking at the floor. I’d had my second retina surgery, and had to look down at all times. It limited any celebrating, so Gail and I just had a quiet evening together.

66, my first birthday retired. We were in Maui and unwinding from our trip to Australia and all over the South Pacific.

67, my first birthday in St. George, which somehow mean that I was really retired. Despite the long trip and months afterwards in Boise, I didn’t feel really retired and separated from my old life until we moved here eight weeks before I turned 67.

70, this birthday. I guess it makes me “officially old”. I have no complaints about being 70, although various little health issues are irritating. I know that just comes with getting older.

Of course none of us have any clue how many more birthdays we will have, but I’m not planning on leaving soon. Common expressions around this “senior community” include:

“Getting old isn’t for sissies”
“You have to be tough to get old”
“Any day on this side of the grass is a good day”
“It is better to be seen than viewed”

I don’t worry about passing on, but am sure not trying to hurry it up. I’m way too happy with my life, my wife, my family, my friends, and my neighbors to want to leave them any time soon.

To save my kids having to put it in a comment, I’ll sing to myself:

Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
All the monkeys and elephants
Smell exactly like youuuuuuuu

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