A friend asked me how it felt to reach the age of 45.
lost in shuffle
"Swollen," I said.
Actually, I feel swollen every year at this time. It comes from weeks of pigging out during the holidays. Those of us born within a few weeks of Christmas and New Year's are used to greeting the anniversary of our births reeking of champagne, cashews and spiral-sliced ham.
I know several people who have birthdays around this time of year. We share a common bond. First, when we were young, we were offended at having our birthdays largely overlooked by friends and family. We learned which uncles and aunties were tightwads, choosing to give one gift to cover both events. But, at least, they were better than the ones who kissed off our birthdays all together.
I reached adulthood thinking my family had forgotten my birthday only once. It was when I 16. No one mentioned my birthday that morning and so I went through the day thinking they had some sort of surprise party planned for that night. But bedtime came and the surprise was on me. I hit the sack thinking, "Boy, are mom and dad going to feel bad tomorrow." I was out for emotional revenge. The ploy backfired. They were crushed at having forgotten my birthday. But I felt even worse for deliberately not reminding them.
Years later, after both parents had passed away, I learned there had been a previous close call. I found a stash of letters to my mom from my dad. It was 1968 and he was writing from Vietnam. I came across one in which my dad said, "This is the worse I've felt since I've been here. I can't believe it happened."
I thought, my god, his base got bombed or his C-47 gunship had been shot down. But the next line was, "I can't believe I forgot his birthday."
There dad was, putting his life on the line every night flying dangerous missions and he was worried about missing my birthday. He then thanked my mom for having the smarts to run down to the local Western Union office and having them dummy up a birthday telegram from Vietnam that was delivered to the house about the time I was cutting my cake. It was more than 20 years before I learned of their elegant deception and, holding that yellowed letter from Da Nang in my hands, I had never loved them so much. And, I felt even more guilty for having put them through the emotional ringer when I was 16.
AFTER that letter, I could even almost forgive my dad for the years and years of clock radios he had given me as birthday presents in later life. Almost. I mean, five clock radios in five years, that's a bit extreme. I'm still searching for the underlying meaning of the clock radio thing.
Eventually, we New Year's New Borns decide birthdays aren't such a big deal, after all. Especially in adulthood, when we are so fed up with eating, drinking and making merry that the thought of opening even one more present, quaffing one more drink or consuming one more macadamia nut is just too much. We start actually looking forward to our birthdays slipping by with little or no notice.
At 45, I'm still waiting for my chronological age and the relative age of my body to harmonically converge. So far, due to aggressive apathy on the health care front, my body's a lot older than I am. If I don't start living right, my body's going to die and I'm not going to be there with it.
On the positive side, I don't suffer from "runner's knee," "tennis elbow," "swimmer's ear," "golfer's back" or "football fever."
I'm slightly afflicted with "writer's butt," but I'll take it over "writer's block" any day. In short, I made it to another year and as soon as I feel up to it, I plan to propose a toast.
Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802
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