This weekend Heidi has a birthday. It’s not a big round one that we often make such a big deal of. It doesn’t end with a 0. No “Lordy, Lordy” attached. It’s one of those in-between ones that people try not to notice and don’t really make you feel that much older.
But it is a birthday.
There was a time in our lives when birthdays were big things. The young ones are cool.
Like getting to be 10. Double digits.
12. When you are sort of officially a preteen.
13. When you reach the magical teens.
Sweet 16. Driving.
18. You can vote. Enlist. Move away from home.
21. Adult. Drinking. Official independence.
Others are more implied than official.
25 – you are supposed to have you life pretty much together.
29. If you are not married by now…
30. Used to be over-the-hill.
35. The old biological clock is ticking.
40. Lordy, Lordy… Oficially really old to young people. Middle age.
45. Really middle age.
50. REALLY middle age (not!). The new 30 (whatever!).
My family had a few birthday songs when I was a kid. We started with the traditional one. Then there was this crazy one – I’m not sure where it came from, but it wasn’t a birthday song at all (You sister Rose is dead and so is Uncle Fred, they found them in the shed, shot right through the head…). I think one of my twin sisters made it up. Finally there was this birthday dirge (…grief misery and despair, people dying everywhere, happy birthday, oh happy birthday).
Heidi is officially a year older than me – for three months. When we were still teenagers, that meant a lot. And she turned 21 first. And 30. And 40. I don’t look at birthdays the same now. Now, for me it is a time set aside to reflect. We are sort of past giving surprise parties (for now) and giving lavish gifts. Let’s face it. We have everything. No, we are going to spend a quiet couple of days at the beach. It will be cold. Probably rain. It doesn’t matter.
We’ll try to get in a couple walks in between showers. Gaze out at the same ocean together. Hold hands. Hug a lot. Be thankful for each other. I mean we are thankful for each other most days. But especially thankful.
There is this second chance thing that looms large since Heidi’s brain surgery. It points us toward gratitude and understanding that our days are necessarily numbered. As we look out over that ocean together on this anniversary of her birth we will be looking forward as well as back. We have far fewer days ahead than behind. That is life. And it is right.
But to know that I will be spending them with this beautiful, gentle, spirited, wise, fiery, brilliant, gracious, kind, spiritual, generous woman – makes me the happiest guy around. To know that I have been touched by her and that I am a better dad, teacher, man – because of her – makes me truly blessed.