Friday, July 12, 2013

The Seventh Decade

Today is the last day I can claim to be "in my fifties."  Tomorrow I will have to start saying that I'm "starting my seventh decade."  Yeah, I turn 60 tomorrow.

I've never been one of those folks who take milestone birthdays seriously.  I have a lot friends -- most of them younger than I am! -- who found turning 30, or 50, to be traumatic life events.  I've always thought that my birthdays were just another day, and that I am in no way remarkable for the simple virtue of managing to stay alive for a certain period of time.

In the past, this was not true for most humans.  It was remarkable to manage to stay alive for a certain period of time.  Surviving into adulthood was a big deal.  Making it to middle age was a huge deal.  Four hundred years ago, making it to age 60 would have guaranteed my position as a Village Elder, even if previously I had merely been the Village Idiot.

So.   My wife and daughter are taking me out to dinner with some of my closest friends.  My brother and sisters and father will not be in attendance -- even if they remember my birthday, which is iffy, they will have other, better things to do.  Which surprisingly, despite the years of abuse at my father's hands, hurts more than I thought it would.  But that's the way my family has been "surprising" me for most of my life.

And truly, I've never been one for parties.  I only ever had one birthday party as a kid, and it was a disaster.  (Almost nobody came -- I was not a popular child -- and I think those that did either came grudgingly or merely hoping for cake.)  The next birthday party I had was when I turned 30.  I had just found the love of my life and she threw me a surprise party, inviting all my friends from the Unitarian Church of Charlottesville, VA.  We all got very drunk and partied to the wee hours.  I remember particularly singing along with Spike Jones' "Der Fuhrer's Face" with a couple of East German graduate students who were working in my wife's lab.  They were the opposite of offended, a fact which continues to amaze me thirty years later.  It was a fun time, but not anything I need to do on an annual basis.

I've never really wanted a party to commemorate my birthday.  Apart from what I said up above, I don't really have a good reason for not wanting to party.  Just not my thing, I guess.  My wife is the opposite.  She loves parties.  We gave her a big one when she turned 50, and she wants another one this November when it's her turn to celebrate her 60th.  And she shall have it.

I don't plan to spend tomorrow thinking about mortality, or the future, or even much of the past, really.  I want to try to be in the moment and enjoy what I have, right now, right this second.  And I'll do it in the company of the people I love best in this world.

Nothing could be better than that.

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