The Funny Thing About Birthdays…


I’m fast approaching another birthday, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I don’t particularly like growing older, but who can stop it or even slow it down? I was reading a book by Anne Lamott, and one of the characters in the book said, “In a hundred years?– All new people.”


When I realize that none of the people around me will be here in a hundred years, except maybe the 10 year old who ends up living to be 110 and gets announced on some morning show…along with a few others on the planet who also make it past 100, I had an enlightened moment, and it made me think that all those little things I get so agitated about are really not so important after all and that having another birthday…not so big of a deal or maybe it is but not in the way I think. 


These days, many people seem to be finding their fountain of youth in botox or plastic surgery or chemical peels or whatever, but the rest of us are growing older and not doing it as gracefully as we’d like. I understand this wanting to look young because people want the outside of them to look as young as they feel on the inside. They look into a mirror and suddenly don’t recognize the person staring back at them with the wrinkly neck.


Since I was 12, I’ve had a streak of white hair that I always thought was kind of cool, and since I got it from the sun and not from the aging process, to me it didn’t really count as gray hair…at least not normal gray hair.


But last summer, as I was brushing my hair, I found two real gray hairs where I part my hair on the side. I was quite shocked to see gray hair already because I had proudly thought that since my grandmother looked so young, I was at least ten years away from gray, but it was not to be…so I threw a fit and then plucked away…and have plucked all the rest of the gray that I have found since then…I’ve heard this is a losing battle. But I don’t really think I’m up to dyeing my hair because I’m simply too cheap to do it well, and I have a feeling my dye job would look more like someone dumped a bottle of brownish-black shoe polish on the top of my head.


Turning 30 several years ago was hard for me, which seems really funny now. And the older I get, I’m sure the funnier it will become. But I really thought that I might be “snuffed out” before I reached my 30th birthday and be eternally 29…we had just moved to Alabama, and I didn’t have any friends, and we had no money and had a fixer upper house that was nasty and dark…I was depressed at the time and being 29 forever seemed like such good drama…


But 30 came and went, and I actually grew to love Alabama and the friends I made there, and we made a little money and were able to fix up our house. Time usually brings about some kind of change or maybe at least a change in perspective…since I didn’t get to be forever 29, I was glad for the small changes in circumstances as well as perspective.


I don’t see life as circular but rather as points on a graph. By graphing age, I see that certain ages in life seem to be parallel to each other. They say that when you get older like 70’s or 80’s, I guess, you become like a little kid again. At some point, an older person becomes proud of how old they are, and it’s perfectly acceptable to announce to everyone how many years they’ve lasted on this earth, just like a four year old.


So when people hit their 50’s and 60’s, my theory is that these people become like teenagers…teenagers with money, finding a newfound sense of freedom because their children have flown the coop. Maybe that’s why these new teenagers trade in their mini-vans for convertibles. I’m not there yet, so I don’t know what that kind of freedom looks like…I’m still helping kids with homework and trying to remain calm and only pull the gray hair out of my head. Maybe when I enter my new teenagehood I’ll buy a motorcycle and drive really fast…but probably not.


I asked my mom the other day at what age she had started hurting herself…just to see how much time I actually had left before I end up back in the emergency room… Because if my parallel graph theory on life is accurate, I will turn into my young teenage clutzy self once again…the one that would trip and fall over my own feet, the one not able to control limbs or an entire body, for that matter. I think hurting myself will start gradually, like stubbing toes or running into doors or tripping over imaginary things left on the floor and then eventually lead to breaking an ankle or a hip or something after falling down a flight of stairs…I have much to look forward to.


But certainly there are good things to look forward to with birthdays coming faster and faster each year…there’s all that wisdom that comes with age…someone has said this is true. I’m not personally feeling any wiser, but maybe I’m not old enough yet.


I hope I can walk forever. There’s an older man in my neighborhood that walks each morning and night, and during his first walk down the street, he takes a plastic bag and a poker with him and picks up dog poop…he doesn’t have a dog. He just services our street by taking care of what others fail to take care of themselves, what others fail to notice. I want to keep noticing stuff…yeah, even if it is dog poop because at least I won’t get it on my shoe or maybe I’ll pick up where he leaves off…


Sometimes when I walk in the morning, I see the moon, sometimes the moon and the rising sun at the same time, and I’m happy to be in the middle of them. The other morning, I had been watching the moon and walking with it, but for one minute or so I didn’t pay attention…I think I had gotten lost in my thoughts and in my head, and then when I turned to walk up my hill, the moon, as full as it can get, jumped out at me. It was sitting there just above the trees, and it surprised me and took my breath away for a second.  It reminded me that the world is so much bigger than me and the thoughts in my head…bigger than another birthday…bigger than my aging body parts. It spoke to me of my smallness…it’s a soul thing, and I have to pay attention because I know for certain I’m not going to get 100 more years to get it right.


“There comes a time in everyone’s life when all you can see are the years passing by, and I have made up my mind that those days are gone” because I’ve been gifted with a life, a life that is good, a life that doesn’t always make sense and isn’t supposed to, but it’s my life…And it’s a gift that needs to be given away to those around me.



2 Responses to “The Funny Thing About Birthdays…”

  1. 1 Lillian
    September 18, 2008 at 2:05 pm


    May you age as gracefully as you have thus far. Enjoy your wonderful day!


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