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Tuesday, May 21 News

In Other Words / Birthdays — the agony and the ecstasy

March is my birthday month and I intend to greet it with a modicum of grace.

There comes a point when you arrive at that terrible realization that you are, for lack of a better word, older. It’s not that you aren’t still sporting a youthful demeanor, or can’t navigate a treadmill without too much panting.

I mean “older” as in having reached that age where people stop and say with a look of surprise: “Gee, you look really good” — with emphasis on the “really.”

I am about to face another digit on the litany of birthday years — an “awesome” birthday, as my grandson likes reminding me:

“It’s totally epic,” he tells me with some amusement and a friendly jab.

“Yes, darling,” I laugh it off, “I’ve lived a bit. I have a past.”

He is appropriately intrigued.

“That’s not PC, Andrew,” my granddaughter, Caroline, comes to my rescue. She and I share the same birthday — March 21 — along with a mutual bond of dedication and delight for our numerical connection.

The good news is exactly that: I do have a past. I’m accumulating more of them with each passing year as I manage to creep ahead, hopefully with some style and resigned acceptance, recognizing that I am indeed becoming inevitably chronologically challenged.

Such is the business of birthdays: sobering reminders that just when you think you can sprint up a hill, read a road sign or movie captions without squinting, you’re slowly slowing down. Not to a screeching halt, but getting closer to thanking people younger than you for shoveling your walkway and lifting heavy boxes.

I remember when my father turned 50, and I actually cried. In my childlike mind, he seemed catastrophically ancient. I was suddenly hit with the undeniable fact that he wasn’t immortal. It struck me as daunting, disappointing and a bit scary. But now, as I approach my own birthday, whose number is decidedly larger than the one that solicited that reaction, I cry less knowing that it’s all part of a grand plan. People get older, and with that we come to adapt to the next rung on the ladder of life.

If you have lived long enough, you’ve probably managed, in varying degrees, to survive loss, ill health and heartbreak. You have, in fact, become exactly that: a survivor, and that’s no small achievement. Oddly enough, the dichotomy is that I embrace birthdays. I treasure each one of them while pensively noting the alternative.

If it’s a big birthday, my expectations are especially high requiring some major fan-fare to get me over the hump. I move gently toward the next phase of maturity accompanied by a slight sense of well-earned denial befitting my delicious decrepitude.

For me, there’s no quiet meandering into a new birthday year, where I go to sleep one night and simply awaken older. I want the attention befitting my numerical stature. I require the proper amount of fawning commemorating the occasion. I’ve finally reached that stage in life where it’s okay to be wildly unconventional and celebrate myself.

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Last week, I filled out a medical history form and quickly scribbled down my birth date. The nurse, noting my age, asked the proverbial “really?” with such conviction I wasn’t sure if she thought I looked older or younger. I chose to accept the latter. I didn’t press further.

“Yes,” I said, “it’s just one of those things that happened while I was busy living my life.”

“Jewelry,” she announced suddenly. “You deserve an important bauble. Something obscenely large to soften the passage of time.”

“Sounds good to me,” I said, as visions of diamonds danced through my head.

I am thinking if I am lucky, my daughter will let me borrow her silver heart pendant with the small ruby in the middle. I’ve had my eye on it ever since I was young.

Westporter Judith Marks-White shares her humorous views monthly in the Westport News. She can be reached via email at joodth@snet.net or at judithmarks-white.com.

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