There is a black balloon in my office. It says "Oh No, the Big 5-0." I walked into my staff meeting yesterday only to find black balloons, the afore mentioned one with "50" on it, and a cake with a tombstone that played "Happy Birthday" in a dirge like tone.
Some of the staff took me out to a pub for lunch (yes, church people do that). I had the traditional Irish lunch drink, Diet Coke, along with potato and leek soup and chips (that's "fries" to you Colonials). They were interested to know how I feel about turning 50... even though that's not until the 16th.
Well, let's see. Fifty is when you know that you are no longer considered a sexual being or a sexual threat. You are a safe person to be around. When a pretty girl smiles at you, you assume that something is unzipped or that you remind her of a kindly uncle who is now in a nursing home in a distant land. I'm really not that old. I was just born before a lot of people. In the race to get to the planet, I beat out most of them.
Yes, I've seen changes. When I was a kid the wonder drug was alcohol. (in that neighborhood, it still is) My Social Security number only has six digits. And it's in Roman numerals. I can remember, when I was young, wanting to change the world. Now I only want to change the young. I find myself using words like "spacious, roomy, and comfortable" when buying underwear. I can remember when the Dead Sea was only sick.
Besides, it's all relative. If every year had twenty months instead of 12, I'd only be 30 this weekend. I wish they hadn't discontinued my blood type, but what are you going to do? For a while I learned something new every day. Now I unlearn something every day. I call that "a balanced life."
And who wants to live to be a hundred anyway? The only way to get there is to give up everything that made you want to live that long in the first place! And while it's true that the hands on my biological clock are giving me the finger, I'm okay with that. I'm not bitter. I figure it's not what happens to you that counts, it's how you choose to deal with it. I find Prozac, Vicodin, or a killing spree works best.
There are advantages. I'm old enough now to personally identify every object in an antique store. Sure, there are disadvantages. I pulled my left shoulder out putting peanut butter on a bagel (hey, it was chunky!). I pulled out my right shoulder putting Ben-Gay on my left shoulder. At least I'm not as old as the teller at my bank. She's 812 years old. If I counted the rings right.
I'll be here without my wife on my birthday. She flew to Texas for a cousin's wedding. Don't feel bad -- birthdays don't mean that much.. and it could be worse. I remember when my parents surprised me with a car on my sixteenth birthday. They missed me, but it was still quite a surprise. Besides, some of my surprise parties have really been interventions, so...
Fact is, birthdays used to be a big deal. That was when you would get a present -- something you wanted but could never, ever get the money or time or chance to get on your own. Now I can buy what I want (as long as I don't want much). Birthdays were also mile markers; each one opening up a door to another possibility, another step up the ol' maturity ladder. Now, birthdays mark the end of things and warn of coming slow downs and closed doors. I have four months left with my son before he ships out. My daughter is married to a good man. Christmas changes, then. So do birthdays. Sometimes the family will be together but...
Sad? Nope. Melancholy? Nope. I'm ready for this. I've been a traveling man all my life. Raised by missionaries, moving from one new frontier to another, and finally having to leave Scotland behind as I returned with my wife to America. I know I can't live in Scotland again (there isn't a good reason to, plus it is very expensive, far from any grandchildren that might be born, and the politics annoy me) but I miss it terribly. I know every day that I am on a road from this place to another place. This mile marker doesn't bother me. It just means I'm closer home. One day I'll be in a place where my Christian friends and I will all be together and where the days aren't marked by black balloons. If this Saturday means I'm one day closer to that... bring it on!