Some birthdays are milestones and we know it before we get there. 5’s probably the first one, because we know we are going to go to school. Next comes 16 and a driver’s license. Then 18, when we have to register for the draft and begin voting. And at 50, we get our AARP invitation. We see these were coming and it is hard to avoid feeling like these birthdays matter.
Then there are the zero birthdays. Not everyone finds them dramatic, but for some, they are hurdles to be leaped over. 10, now I’m not a kid anymore. 20, now I’m not a teenager anymore. 30, wow I better get my act together. 40, gee, why aren’t I having as much fun anymore. And so on.
Finally, there are those birthdays that come out of nowhere and just smack you between the eyes with a 2×4. These days are ambushes and are different for everyone. 40 was a tough one for me. Basically, I didn’t expect to live that long. I had no plans beyond then. I had no concept of myself at the age of people I didn’t ever want to hang around with.
This August, I turned 64 and let me tell you right now that not everyone wants to hear that song on his/her 64th birthday.
As my “special day” neared my lovely wife, Kelly, kept checking what I wanted to do. How did I want to celebrate? Should we invite some friends over? I didn’t think I was sullen, but I was sullen. I only knew what I didn’t want to do. No celebration. No friends. Let’s just keep this low key. Usually I take my birthday off; this year I worked.
It took a bit for me to figure it out. For me, 64 was the last birthday before I get old. At 65, you have to sign up for Medicare. At 65, you always get the senior discount. Most people expect to retire by 65. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be 64; it was more that I was trying to figure out how to stay 64. I had come to the edge of the cliff and next year, time was going to push me off.
Of course, Kelly made my birthday a wonderful thing for me. She mentioned that song, but didn’t play it. We didn’t have cake and ice cream because I had said I didn’t want it. (’Sure wished I hadn’t done that.) It wasn’t so bad and I’m starting to feel better.
Does kind of make we wonder what other surprises birthdays will hold for me between now and the big 100. Aging in Place doesn’t happen by accident. And we don’t have to like all of it, either.