They Say It’s Your Birthday

I’m that Tired Guy pondering the mysteries of the average, multiplying the co-efficient times the constant and concluding there truly are only a handful of movie sequels that are better than the original. I’m that Tired Guy expostulating the postulates while simultaneously disproving the existence of preexistence post mortem, ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

Or in other words, my birthday is right around the corner.

It falls right before the New Year, almost as an afterthought. Most folks are still recovering from those grueling holiday festivities saving their strength for the last mad dash to get everything done before the digits change.

And I wouldn’t be the Tired Guy if I let this particular birthday go by without comment. It’s a turning point, when I say farewell to yet another decade of triumphs and regrets, hopes revived and dreams crushed, love lost and most assuredly found and the occasional good belly laugh. This decade I have undergone so many changes marked notably by hair loss, weight gain, three different jobs, more hair loss and did I mention hair loss?

I hitched a ride with a vending machine repair man
He says he’s been down this road more than twice
He was high on intellectualism
I’ve never been there but the brochure looks nice
Jump in, let’s go
Lay back, enjoy the show
Everybody gets high, everybody gets low,
These are the days when anything goes

Oh and that little part about being married three times.

(You didn’t know that? Yeah, little ole me…married three times. Who woulda thunk it?)

So here I am ready to celebrate the big 3-0.

[Silence]

How about 35?

No? Sheesh, tough crowd tonight.

Would you believe 39?

[Crickets chirping]

Ok fine, we all know which one it is.

I mean, it’s just a number right?

RIGHT?????

To many age becomes an engaging and almost ritualistic comparison of accomplishments versus failures. Periodically you dust off the vast “to do” list with an expectation you really will get to it just as soon as you have more time, finish up that other pesky project, pay off debt, change jobs, find a bigger house, propose to your high school sweetheart, put your kids through college, write a novel, paint the fence, sand the floor, breathe in through nose, out through mouth and so forth.

Hurry up and wait, almost like rush hour traffic.

Eventually you’ll get there.

But what or where is “there”? Is it a mile marker pandered to millions by Hallmark reminding us all to lather our loved ones with sappy yet endearing epithets?

(To be fair even I’m not that cynical. I love buying funny cards for friends and family.)

Is “there” measured in a mind-boggling array of accumulated toys and other worthless junk cluttering every closet and garage corner? Some bumper stickers even challenge the reader to a duel implying there is a finish line, a winner and a loser for the greater materialist. If you don’t have the latest and greatest then you’re merely swimming with the minnows.

On the other hand financial planners peddle “there” as the culmination of years of careful allocation, penny-pinching, scrimping and saving. Apparently it’s a number you can carry around like luggage, and if you’re real lucky your significant other has a matching set. Oh don’t worry about that little blip called a recession. Your 401k will get back to where it was…someday.

Dollars and sense, none of which I have in great supply.

Money
It’s a crime
Share it fairly
But don’t take a slice of my pie
Money
So they say
Is the root of all evil today
But if you ask for a raise
It’s no surprise that they’re giving none away

I think we can all agree “there” is a state-of-mind. You’re soaking in a tub overlooking an idyllic seascape with your significant other in a similar tub holding your hand as the sun sets. Dim the lights and cue the music. Just make sure nothing lasts for more than three hours or you better call someone…anyone.

Or more realistically “there” is where the kids are shrieking, the dogs are barking, outstanding bills to pay, diapers to change, repairs to make, dinner to prep, baths to draw, homework to do. Taxi service to soccer practice, homeward bound from band practice, reserve the birthday place, hit the mall, host the slumber party, wash the laundry, clean the clutter, wash the laundry again, roll your eyes, take a deep breath, sigh heavily and do it again.

You offer hugs, encouragement, criticism, lectures, wisdom, humor, smiles, songs, angst-ridden tales of youth and the occasional kick in the pants. A quick glance in the mirror reveals laugh lines chasing worry lines, gray hair, some paunch and a wry smile. At some point the noise you hear on the radio is the same crap your parents warned you about, reality television killed the sitcom star, and your kids’ closet contains more designer names than your own.

Confusion never stops
Closing walls and ticking clocks
Gonna come back and take you home
I could not stop but you now know, singin’
Come out upon my seas,
Curse missed opportunities
Am I a part of the cure
Or am I part of the disease, singin’

Then one day you wake up and the diapers are all gone, the rooms are clean, the house is quiet and you’re not sure whether to cheer or cry.

Almost on reflex you ask “How did I get here?” and the sudden realization hits you “there” became “here”.

Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?

(Sorry Alanis but not this time either.)

Forty is right around the corner. I can almost taste it. But it was such a long, arduous journey. Twists and turns, peaks and valleys and a few smelly rest-stops to break it all up.

But your thoughts will soon be wanderin’
The way they always do
When you’re ridin’ sixteen hours
And there’s nothin’ much to do
And you don’t feel much like ridin’
You just wish the trip were through.

If I had to choose one word to describe the first forty years of my life?

Eventful.

But you know what? I think that’s a very good thing. Too often we wonder about the might-have-beens and dwell too long on the should-have-dones. I’ve done my share of that – just read this blog and you’ll get a taste!

That said the my emphasis falls on the end of the word. My life has been full. Like you I have experienced success and failure, joy and sorrow, victory and defeat. I’m poor yet rich, stressed yet happy, mired in worry yet strong in faith. I’m not empty and I don’t feel like I’ve missed out while the rest of the world grew up around me and, at times, passed me by.

Well, not like I used to at any rate.

I credit my wife and my boys for that and a burgeoning realization, an acceptance the paths we chose in our youth paved the road we’re on now.

As for age, I think Chiun summed it up best: “For an apricot, yes. For a head of lettuce, even more so. But for a mountain I am not even begun in years. However, for a man I am just right.”

I’m at the beginning of the new adventure.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get “there”.

But I do know the meter is still running and that’s fine by me.

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