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