Thursday, March 18, 2010

Another day older...

I know it seems self serving to write about your own birthday on your birthday. But you know, why have a blog if you can't be self indulgent.

I have always had mixed feelings about my birthday. Being born the day after St. Patrick's Day has often left me with this "day late and a dollar short" feeling. But once I found out my father was adopted and having done quite a bit of research on my family tree, I really don't have any Irish roots to cling too, so not being born on St. Patrick's day is no longer an issue.

My birthday is the day before my brother's birthday. He is four years older than me. I am sure that me being born the day before his birthday did nothing to improve his feelings toward his baby brother when I was brought home from the hospital (which would explain why he would use any excuse to hit me while we were growing up). My mother used to more or less combine our birthday celebrations. On occasion she would recycle my cake for his celebration the next day.

I was raised Christian Scientist. And my mother's interpretation of the church doctrine was that we were neither born nor would we die. So she tried to downplay birthday celebrations as much as possible. I only recall one actual birthday party growing up that had anyone but my immediate family. I believe it was my 5th birthday. I had a Humpty Dumpty cake. One of my gifts was a Casper the Friendly Ghost doll. It had a string that you pulled and Casper would make friendly ghost pronouncements. Eventually the voice box wore out and it would only spout ghostly gibberish in a disturbingly raspy voice. I don't know what happened to the doll. It probably ended up on a farm with many of the dogs we had growing up that mysteriously disappeared. If I had it today, I imagine it would vetch a fair amount on eBay (as would my Munster Family lunch box that also vanished into the fourth dimension).

As I entered my early teens, my birthdays got even less special. When I turned 15, my mother wrapped up a package of underwear and gave it to me for my birthday. I know she had good intentions. Underwear is a necessary evil and I realize I probably needed some. But birthdays are for getting something you want, not something you need and would have gotten anyway. To this day, I do my best to avoid giving practical gifts.

It is funny how you look forward to birthdays when you were younger. I remember wanting to get older. Turning 18 meant I could vote. Turning 19 meant I could drink legally (in Idaho at the time). Turning 21 meant I was considered an adult and could gamble, drink and more or less partake in any vice that was taxable, legally. I guess the point I started putting on the brakes for wanting to get older was 25. Turning a quarter of a century old hit me at the time as auspicious. Next thing I knew I was 30. I blinked and I was 40 being serenaded at a downtown Red Robin by a pretty bad Elvis impersonator and then later that evening. standing on a table top in a Hooters down by Lake Union with several Hooters waitresses doing a very bored version of a happy birthday song.  Another decade screeched by me and I turned 50 (which put my anxiety about turning 25 seem silly).

Now I am 52. It is one of those in between birthdays that doesn't carry any direct baggage like 30, 40 or 50. Its only significance is that it puts me a step closer to 60 and that kind of freaks me out. It also signals to me that I have more of my life behind me than in front of me. I'm not looking forward to approaching the finish line and seeing the grim reaper with his checked flag waiting to wave me in.

So I take solace in the concept I've been toying with lately that time is not a straight line, but an circle or oval. Actually it is more like a ball of yarn that keeps winding around itself getting bigger and bigger, occasionally overlapping, but not necessarily repeating. If that is true, then my mother had it right all along. Life neither begins nor does it end. It just is.

2 comments:

Gypsy said...

Happy Birthday Tim. I turned 50 two weeks ago and it IS a frightening spectre when you realise you are accelerating towards the finish line.

Hope you and the family have a special day to mark the occasion.

Time said...

Gypsy! So happy to hear from you! I've missed you. Happy belated birthday! And only 50. Still a baby :) Thanks so much for the well wishes. Hope you are doing well, too. Visit my daddy blog sometime and see how the babies have grown.