Friday, October 23, 2009

I Hate Birthdays

      SHE turns sixty today.  Sixty!

      We’re going to celebrate his life, our life together, but, still, something’s changed. I’ve lost something. I used to love birthdays, but now, that feeling, it’s retired.

      Aging into my driver’s license, R-rated movies, voting, gambling, the right to gamble again (the law changed from eighteen to twenty-one in Iowa when I was nineteen), buying alcohol, renting a car, and finally coming into that ultimate age of twenty-five when the car insurance rate drops; all these milestones are long in the past. I’m in the purgatorial decades when the shiny novelty of aging has buckled and tarnished, and the grateful relief of being granted another year of retirement has yet to materialize.

       Looking in the mirror, I see the face of boy with the lines of a man; the thick, lush skin of a teen with the materializing age spots of my father; the musculature of an eighteen-year-old chest with the nearly drooping fatty chunkiness of my unforgiving genetic nipples.

      I turn from the mirror to the world. The black and white of my youth has matured to bountiful grays; but so have many of the fluorescents and pastels. The sweet milk chocolate and sour apple starved taste buds that spent countless quarters at Rooshy’s Candy Store, now tolerate only dry reds and bitter darks.

      I look back to the mirror. Running fingers along my hairy scalp, I’m grateful for the shaggy fullness inherited from my mother, but the coarseness of Grandma’s strands has taken a strangle hold that it will never relinquish. With wise surrender of the shame I felt at twenty-one, I pluck my monobrow weekly, but now, I also trim Grandpa’s flaring, ex nihilo curlicues that wind crazily towards my crow’s feet and furled brow. Blinking, the sparkling blue of my four-year-old irises giggle back at me, but the darkening bags, trophies of depression’s survival, sing songs of lament to their weighty reality.

      Seeing myself in the mirror, I think of SHE. What did SHE look like at thirty-five? I’ve seen pictures, but I want the full 3-D, tactile, surround-sense experience. What will I look like at sixty? Will SHE still be here to celebrate with me?


      Love is.

      Love is to blame.

      Love is to blame for aging.

      Love is to blame for aging’s indiscriminate gut checks.

      I love SHE. We accepted the fact that our age difference is substantial and that we have no idea what the future holds; how many birthdays we will share. We will enjoy what we have, honoring; celebrating, in spite of the persistent frailty of the present.

      But, still, I don’t have to like birthdays.