20 May 2010

When I sing along with you

I was just looking at an ad on another website. It said, "What was your most memorable birthday?"

Well, I've had a lot of them (yeah, I've had a lot of birthdays, but also a lot of memorable birthdays). And it was timely because I have a birthday coming up.

Lucky me.


Every year for twenty-plus years now, come April, I have listened to my mother-in-law carp about adding another year to her age. It is something that really bothers her, and she's spent vast amounts of time and money on plastic surgery and Botox trying to fend off the inevitable. Whatever floats your boat, but I don't really see the point. She looks fine for 80, but she is 80. It's pretty clear that she's 80. I like her even though she is 80. And when we took her out for her birthday last weekend, she kvetched about being 80. Given the number of friends she and my father-in-law have lost, I'd think she'd be pretty thrilled at the fact she's still kicking, still able to travel, still able to hang out with her kids and grandkids.

The birthday that freaked me out was 25. Quarter century. That one was weird. It still feels old.

Thirty didn't bother me even a little. And by the time I hit 40, the march of years no longer mattered much to me. When I was 32, my older half brother died of glioblastoma multiforme. He was 45. He had three weeks from onset of symptoms to death, and his doctor told me in no uncertain terms that his quick death was a profound blessing. Of course, I found it difficult to see it that way, though the rational part of me agrees that it's better P. didn't suffer far more than he did. Still, it was a blessing to me in a different sense: his death made me realize that every year is precious, every year is a gift. So yes, I have more wrinkles now than I did a year ago, and it's harder to keep my waistline in check, and God knows my whole body hurts most of the time, but I have had years with my children that P. never had with his. I'm teaching my son to drive, which P. never had the opportunity to do with his. If I'm fortunate, I've got a few more good years left to spend with them.

And it's not that I have some flower child-like attachment to my aging body. It's not that I lack a certain amount of vanity myself. I am a realist and I want to age well. I fight the wrinkles best I can with sunscreen and good quality moisturizer. I dread the thought of bingo wings, so I lift another 10-lb. weight. I hoist the sagging bits of my person with formidable undergarments (alright, not much is sagging yet, but I'm prepared for it!). I haven't capitulated to surgery or injections. No bunny wrinkles on my nose! Just crows' feet you can see when I smile.

That's the important part, I think. You see them when I smile.

I have lots left to do, too. Weeds to pull and bathrooms to remodel. Kids to get into colleges. June. I have June! Purple enchiladas with D. and concert, concert, concert.

I have my friends. There is much stinky cheese yet to be eaten, and wine to be drunk.

Another 6 or so miles to walk tomorrow.

Meals to cook. Parties to throw.

People to meet. Unexplained laughter that hasn't been heard yet. A whole future that I'm looking toward.

And there are songs to sing with my children. I make up crazy songs for the boy, and belt out rock ballads with the daughter. I sing--horrifyingly loud--when I'm pedaling away on the exercise bike. Sometimes I sing when I'm out walking. There are songs I haven't sung yet. I want to sing along with you.

How could one accomplish these things without the extra years?

Maybe when I'm eighty I'll be ready to kick off rather than kick it. But I'm looking forward to the chance to find out.

Go listen to some good music: "Everlong" from the album The Colour and the Shape by Foo Fighters. And for crying out loud. BIRTHDAY CAKE! Not giving that up.

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