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Fifty Years that Can’t Be Ignored

I’m 50 years old. The milestone came and went this week without fanfare.

Here’s how:

It’s 6:33 AM on my 50th Birthday. The rain is steady. The world is soaked. I think about the kids: Hope they don’t get drenched. Do teenage girls even use umbrellas?  Musings of a clueless Dad. Why, at the crack of dawn on my birthday, do I suddenly miss my girls?  Instead, I should count my blessings: Two terrific daughters with a great Mom in a warm and loving home.  They don’t live far. Gratitude trumps absence, and I smile. No worries, I’ll see them tonight.

Bean

I turn to my emails. There is an eCard alert from Eileen, my kid sister.  Eileen has been sick recently. Her condition is very serious. I click on the link. The sentimental greeting slowly appears in distinctive script as if being handwritten on fine tapestry. There’s music too. I feel its gentle humming on my laptop.  The vibration is very faint, so I suppose it’s a soft melody.  And then Eileen’s own words in a tag line:

Hope your birthday finds you with joy in your heart! Remember…. it won’t go away if you ignore it.  Love Bean.

“Bean” I whisper.  I’ve called her Bean since we were little kids. But don’t be sad. Bean prayed joy for me today, not sadness. Yes Eileen, there is joy in my heart on this, my 50th birthday.  Only 50, and I have lived an amazing life already. Today I am a very grateful man.

Bean’s quip that “it won’t go away” was  a hint of recent banter between us. She was on the mend after a difficult hospital stay and we were talking about, well, life.  Bean kept cracking jokes about our tendency to set problems aside for another day. “Ignore it and it isn’t there!” she jibed. No stranger to denial, I emphatically related. And we shared a hearty laugh at this common human folly. But on this birthday morning, her missive had new power and meaning.

We wonder where the time went. And we ask in earnest if we should have cherished each day and hour more.  Yes. We should have.

Bean is in the battle of her life. It cannot be ignored and it will not go away. The future is uncertain and the irrevocable past seems suddenly oh so precious. We look back and we wonder where the time went. And we ask in earnest if we should have cherished each day and hour more.  The answer, of course, is yes. We should have.

But remember too, my dear sister, that the love in your heart and the joy in mine also cannot be ignored. And these too will never go away.

Seize the Day

So inspired, I move now to seize the day. I exit the quiet of my apartment and venture out in the morning storm. Deaf to nature, I pause to take in the  horizon as God now offers it.

The silver-gray scene is anything but gloomy. Drizzle sparkles against the dusky heavens. Dark clouds roll majestically. Distant flickers of lightning penetrate the steely sky. The many-hued autumn trees sway vibrantly in the foreground adding rich color to His handiwork.

Every pixel of God’s stunning portrait is exponentially more vivid precisely because I can’t hear anything. The joy of silence grips me as I whisper in the gust. “Sky without sound,” I marvel.

There is no place on earth I would rather be. Our simple family birthday ritual is sacred to me.

Back on solid earth, my daily routine holds firmly uneventful.  My work consumes me. The kids aren’t going to be around until after eight o’clock.  I work into the evening scarcely thinking about my birthday until I finally leave the office and drive to the house.  Sarah, 13, Amanda, 17 and their Mother (age not available!) warmly greet me.

It is now 8:17 PM and there is no place on earth I would rather be.  Our simple family birthday ritual is sacred to me. It’s just the four of us at the kitchen table. Enter cake and candles. We sing “Happy Birthday” to the person so honored. Then the wish is made. Gifts are opened.  We eat the cake and hang out.

Greatest Wish

Unremarkable, you say? I think not. Consider the wish at the candles– We taught our children to never deny their hearts’ desires. Call it superstition or prayer; but our entreaty is genuine and we aim to make our bidding count. What do you wish above all other dreams? Wish it now!

What do you wish above all other dreams? Wish it now!

I never know for sure either daughter’s precise wish. They never tell. The wish is theirs’ alone.  Silly superstition? Maybe. But I do it faithfully too. There is nothing lost and much gained to covet, yearn and dream!  What was my 50th birthday wish?  Sorry, I will not tell either.  But it was not  my wish that I could hear again.

There is nothing lost and much gained to covet, yearn and dream!

Not being able to hear my children is the worst part about being deaf. So “Happy Birthday” from the kids in silent movie seemed, at first, like a sad prospect. But this year I know better. Glumness from a stricken father will never do.

Of course I want to hear again. But today I savor my entreaties for less selfish things.  Instead I implore acceptance and insist to cherish every moment.  This year I reveled to watch them sing! Incidentally, it turns out that lip-reading “Happy Birthday” ain’t all that complicated! The silent scene was priceless. Then I close my eyes and pray my greatest wish, vaguely sensing that it may have just come true.

Then I close my eyes and pray my greatest wish, vaguely sensing that it may have just come true. The night was a hit!

Conversation at the kitchen table was parent-child-teenage-typical. School, friends, that kind of thing. The kids were funny too. Instead of standard bakery fare, Sarah did the icing herself on a grocery-store bargain cake. It was a respectable effort!

My gifts were bundled in leftover Christmas wrapping secured by masking tape. Inside were two shirts and a new wallet. As always, the kids handpicked gifts were thoughtful and in good taste, despite the packaging!  Yes, I was a satisfied birthday customer. The night was a hit!

Come and Gone

Their Mom and I reminisced about our long shared past into the wee hours. It was a great conversation. I finally left the house at 1:29 AM.  So ended the dreary work-filled day with late night cake snack. As far as birthdays go, very low key. Certainly no hype or fanfare. No milestone tribute. No grande reunion. No extravagant gifts. My 50th  birthday had simply come and gone.

Yes, 50 is older than 49. But not by much! So I am good with it.

Yes, 50 is older than 49.  But not by much!  So I am good with it.

And who knows how many birthdays I have yet to celebrate? I can only hope they are all so unremarkable as this one!

 

16 replies
  1. sam sandler says:

    Hey Buddy,

    I am so excited to see all the Blogs and the post from others. Keep up the good work.
    I am very proud of you and how far you have come in short period of time.
    remember we who are Deaf may not be able to hear but we can let our voices be heard.

    hope your birthday was all you wanted it to be and more

    sam

    Reply
  2. Sumerlyn says:

    Brian,
    I’m so happy for you and your awesome mind set! Thank you for sharing your thoughts they are very inspiring! I truly enjoy reading your blogs. Keep up the good work and I look forward to reading more from you soon :)
    Sumerlyn

    Reply
  3. Julie says:

    Wow thank you so much for sharing I’m not much of a reader but wow you write so well and they touch me I miss class but very glad to hear your doing so well please keep me on your list

    Reply
  4. Cris Diamond says:

    Well said! You are a beautiful writer. I love reading all your articles. Your positive attitude is amazing. I am happy I met you, thanks to David. We aren’t just teacher and student, but friends! Keep up the good work, you really are making progress:)

    Cris

    Reply
    • Brian Patrick Jensen says:

      Cris, Thank you. I’m glad we met too. Hey everyone, Cris is my ASL tutor. She’s teaching me sign language! Cris a great teacher, despite the “challenged” student. ASL is a beautiful language and I’m trying my mightiest. Thanks for your help dear friend! Stay inspired!

      Reply
  5. Anne Marie says:

    Brian,
    Again I’m inspired by your words. You should really go into writing. You have had so many changes in your life and finding the happiness through all the struggles. It sounds like you had a wonderful birthday, I’m so happy you have the support of your loving family and I’m sending prayers to your sister “Bean”. Please continue to keep your ASL class updated with your journey!

    -Anne Marie-

    Reply
    • Brian Patrick Jensen says:

      Anne Marie, Thank you for the prayers for my Sister Eileen. Bean is a Gem and has, more than ever, inspired me in ways I could not have previously imagined. I am grateful that the birthday story, including Eileen’s insights, have inspired you too. I did have a wonderful birthday without a sound. It was a beautiful thing. Onward!

      Reply
  6. Karen says:

    B,
    Your words so well written and your thoughts so pure. Peace is there on the page each time I read your posts. May you be blessed with a cake full of candles for at least 50 more birthdays.
    Love your cuz,
    Karen

    Reply
    • Brian Patrick Jensen says:

      Cuz, you are always there to support me. I appreciate that. “Pure” ain’t exactly a word I see used much to describe my thoughts and feelings! But I do appreciate the sentiment very much. Can you believe I’m 50! And who knows what tomorrow brings? But today inspires and so do you my dear Cousin. Peace indeed. Love, Brian

      Reply
  7. Dave Butler says:

    Hi Brian,

    Happy belated birthday, your article really hit home on what matters in this world. I too have had life changing events that no one can even image. With all of this going on around me I still look forward to each day as a new start. My family is gone now and I can only wish for what you have so cherish it while it’s there for you.

    Dave

    Reply
    • Brian Patrick Jensen says:

      Hey Dave, I appreciate the response and your readership. Each day is a new start of course. And family is everything whether near or far, whether here or gone and whether past or present. It’s in the heart where the light shines brightest. How do I know? Because I’m 50! Keep the faith!

      Reply
  8. Brett Baker says:

    Oh Mr. Jensen,
    “Glumness from a stricken father will never do” – This mantra sounds so important as it repeats in my brain- I think the line runs even deeper and I could even say, “Glumness will never do!” Although challenged in different ways, many people could take solace in losing their “glumness” and shining a light on the things they can affect! The light in the Jensen house was obviously shining brighter than just candles!
    Happy Birthday!

    Reply
    • Brian Patrick Jensen says:

      Brett, Thank you for your comments and faithful readership. Yep, a group of friends of mine like to say, “We are not a glum lot.” There is no time and no purpose for glum. I have learned that through the positive example of many others who stand as an example that I have always respected and hope to emulate. The light can “shine bright” in every household. You just need to turn it on and keep it fired up! Stay inspired!

      Reply
  9. Denise says:

    Hi Brian:

    Happy Belated. Thank you for sharing your insights on the beauty of a milestone celebrated with simplicity. My thoughts are with you, your dreams, and for “Bean”. Take Care, Denise

    Reply
    • Brian Patrick Jensen says:

      Denise, Thank you for your thoughts and well wishes to my sister Bean. She’s the better half for sure. Bean Inspires! Maybe that should be the name of a new web site! Keep reading and please pass it on! Brian

      Reply

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