Are You Reelin’ In The Years?

Birthdays are simply mile markers on life’s highway.

When I was about to turn five, my mother told me that I was not having a birthday party that year. Of course, I was having a birthday party that year, but my mom told me this because I kept asking if I was having one and she’d planned a surprise gathering for me.

But, you can’t tell a four-year-old something and then veer off the plan.

On my fifth birthday, people began to arrive at our front door dressed in nice clothes, with pretty wrapped presents in their hands.

I turned them away and told them to go home, explaining that my mom said I wasn’t having a party that year. My mom quickly opened the door back up and told everyone to come on in.

That was when I learned what a surprise party was.

When you’re a kid, birthdays, Christmas, summer school breaks, and other yearly events never seem to arrive soon enough. When you’re older, they seem to take the bullet train on their way to visit.

Birthdays are still something to celebrate up through your 20s. But, after that, most folks would just as soon not have everyone make a big deal out of it.

This week, I celebrated another one.

We have six grandchildren, and I always love to ask the smallest ones when they call to wish me a happy birthday, if I’m old. Almost always, they say ‘yes’.

If you ask a child how old is old, the answers vary, but they’re usually similar to the responses that I gave to that question when I was young. And the answers kids give are normally ones that include a number far below my current age.

During my pre-teen years, a phrase that I heard often was “Never trust anyone over 30.” This mantra had a lot to do with Vietnam and the tumultuous state of the country at the time, but I honestly did think that 30 was old. Heck, I thought 16 was old.

The biggest mistake we all make regarding birthdays is our perspective. Between birth and age 21, we can’t wait to get older. We have something to which we can look forward.

When we turn 13, we’re a teenager. When we’re 16, we can get a driver’s license. When we’re 18, we can vote and go to college. When we’re 21, we can buy a beer.

After that, the signposts on the highway of years aren’t as enticing. It isn’t until much later that we have anything to look forward to, but I’m not sure getting a discount omelet at Denny’s because you’re 55 is that spectacular.

Also, kids count their age in fractions. If you ask a child how old they are, they are 6 ½. People in their 40s never count age that way. However, this same phenomena occurs in the older population. They are not just 92, they are 92 1/2.

Also, most older people have a sense of humor about age. George Burns was quoted as saying that when he was a boy, “…the Dead Sea was only sick.”

The lifespan we enjoy now is a lot longer than it was at the beginning of the 20th Century. For that, I am grateful. I have lived almost as long as one of my grandfathers, and I’ve outlived some of my friends.

Birthdays are a gift. We don’t know how many of them we’ll have, so it’s best to celebrate the moments, and not the years.


©2015 John Moore

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