Tomorrow is my birthday; I’m going to be 51.
Birthdays bother some people, not me; I've never worried about getting older. Save for some almost imperceptible crow's feet, my skin is still smooth and wrinkle-free. Thanks to years of ballet and yoga, my body remains somewhat thin and toned. Somewhat. Oddly enough, for someone as vain as I am (that Carly Simon song was, in fact, about me), I don’t worry about losing my looks. I figure that happens as soon as I open my mouth.
If I found any birthday to be disturbing, it was my thirty-fifth. After all, at 35 you're old enough to be president and I remember feeling terribly inadequate since I was in no way mature enough to assume such responsibility. And though at 51 I’m still not exactly presidential material, my concern now is that I no longer have all the time in the world; if I don’t get things done soon, they may never get done at all. I’m 51. Shit! My life is half over. I’ve told you before, I plan on living until 102.
Whatever--I have a very fun weekend planned. I’m flying to Cleveland tomorrow to watch my friend Bob play in a battle of the bands competition at the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame on Saturday night. I worked with Bob at GE in Connecticut from 1997-1999, and he’s one of my very favorite people on earth.
A good-looking guy, Bob loved to hold court at lunchtime with his harem of female co-workers, telling stories of his rambunctious youth and extended adolescence. By his own admission, he could have easily amounted to little more than an incorrigible partier, but by his late forties he somehow found himself in a life that included a gorgeous wife, two beautiful little kids, and a decent position with a world-class conglomerate.
“When I was a kid on Long Island,” he started one noontime off, in his signature deliberate manner, “during the summer I mowed lawns at a cemetery.” Bob paused to savor the attention from his adoring fans. “And one day, I’m mowing along and I come across a grave that says ‘Hiscock.’ That was the guy’s name.”
We tittered with anticipation of the story unraveling into something bawdy.
“And underneath his name,” he continued, “there under ‘Hiscock,’ it says—I swear, this is true—‘In God’s Hands.’” With that, Bob crossed his arms and sat back, pleased with his ability to make us we roar like prepubescent boys.
Five years ago Bob found out he had a tumor in one of his lymph nodes. It was a secondary tumor; the primary was in his throat, unusual for someone who never smoked. He and his wife, Wendy, went through hell for several months and, thank God, Bob’s been cancer-free ever since; his recovery has been a miracle. But during that dark period, I bet they could not have imagined there would ever be a time when they would travel to Cleveland so Bob could play with his band at the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.
It’s almost become a cliché to say it, but every day really is a gift. How can anyone possibly be bothered by a birthday?
(Photo credit: Wendy VonDerLinn)