Pearl River Normally, I’m pretty nonchalant about birthdays. Not other peoples, I should quickly add, but certainly my own. My standard lines when that time of year would come around would be one of two, either “hey, just another day” or “another birthday is so much better than the alternatives.” As the days rise to a larger and larger pile of years, it’s still just another day, hardly a nanosecond in the universe of time, but the alternatives invariably become clearer and harder to ignore.
A friend calls and says, “we’ve got another dozen years”, and rather than your normal, glib retort, you fire back with “we better have twenty or twenty-five.” You feel yourself lucky to be here and of roughly sound body and mind, but you also start thinking about limitations, where normally the horizons seemed boundless. The knee you hurt in high school, the one that you refused to have fixed, because it was your draft exemption, and convinced yourself that you had rehabbed, might not make it on a twenty-mile hike now. Your sciatica reminds you when you have driven a thousand miles or been on the road for ten days, that it’s only the work in the gym that holds it at bay. You finally know that being thin-skinned is not just an expression, but a physical reality. Where you’ve always said you’ll go off the road when you can’t carry your own bags onto the plane, you start warning your staff and governing boards that they need to finally prepare for that day, maybe not in five years, but certainly in ten. Where you were always blasé about Facebook, you actually notice how many birthday wishes you registered. It’s the little things, but like the days and years, they start to add up to something. It’s a long list, and you start making it.
You tell your family how lucky you feel to be with them, and it no longer is trite or routine. Being with them on your birthday really is the gift that means the most to you. You really want to watch something on Netflix with them in the dark, rather than sneaking off to read your email or do some work. You make them talk about family business and the future, because it’s on your mind, and you don’t want to be your father, although you’re unsure if this is a better way. You try not to beg them to commit to the next time everyone is together, because you can’t help yourself, but they let it pass, so it’s OK.
It all works out. You fall asleep with a smile. It’s been a great day. You wake up early so the coffee is made and the pancakes will be ready. All in all, you’re happy to meet the future for another year, and commit to working as hard as you still can to make sure as many as possible are able to feel the same way.