One-Upped!

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My wife and I celebrated my birthday Saturday. I got my Grandma’s card in the mail today…and there’s just something about an envelope-sealing kitten sticker that brings a smile to your face.

I can’t say I eagerly anticipate birthdays. I’m not much of a cake guy, really. I’ve always been a pie man…cherry or pecan. You can’t beat a sliver of pumpkin with a cuppa Joe either. But, this year wasn’t any big hoopla. My beloved surprised me with gifts (even though I told her not to) and we went out and feasted upon crab and over-steamed potatoes and enjoyed some music from my friend’s band RAVEN HILL. (They rocked.)

But as far as birthdays go, in general…I’ve never been a very sentimental guy. I suppose the tradition of a formal get-together including the gift unwrapping ceremony was never really my bag. I don’t like death…I like my life…and birthdays always “instill the fear of the shroud in me.” (To quote Jack Nicholson.)

I wonder if sometimes we do things backwards. I mean, if you think about it…nobody gets gifts at funerals. People send flowers…that in return wilt and die within three days. What a thoughtful reminder. At funeral receptions, people usually bring three-bean salads wrapped in their see-through condolences or a card with some perfunctory message about “a new life” or something. I suppose that’s nice in the big picture, but wouldn’t a funeral be the perfect time for an iTunes gift card or new clothing or a dinner out for a grieving parent, spouse or loved one? Perhaps I’m dwelling on the fact that I’ve always found the functionality of a birthday party a bit contrived, and funerals are too solemn. A celebration of life should be had at a funeral, and a birthday should be more of a toll-booth on the highway to heaven. A brief stop to take a look at yourself for a moment. It shouldn’t have to be a formal affair. I certainly wouldn’t feature three-bean salad. Not if it were the last food on earth.

I went and saw the Pixar movie “UP” the other day with a friend and have to say that it was the best movie I’ve seen in a while. (Which isn’t saying much since I’ve embraced my nonexistent movie-going social life.) But, still, Pixar tends to crank out highly enjoyable, crazy expensive flicks that are very, very marketable. Surprisingly, this one wasn’t necessarily like that. It was highly enjoyable with phenomenal animation…but it wasn’t a one-trick pony. There were no farting ogres or forlorn cowboy dolls, it was a simple story about a simple man. I can’t see them pushing old man dolls at Epcot after this one. Granted, like all good stories, it waved it’s magic wand to bring out the fantasty…but throughout the mayhem, the simple duel relationship between an old man and his love, and the old man and his goal to have an adventure…was perfect. I was hooked.  It was character-based rather than concept-based. I found myself engrossed in the old man’s adventure and I HIGHLY recommend the film to young and old.

I sometimes scratch my head and get angry at the wispy-ness of my once thick head of hair. I grow concerned with how tired I get after midnight. I can’t sleep in anymore. My internal clock buzzes around 9am. I luckily don’t have any gray hair yet…and the one I saw in my patchy goatee I plucked and burned with a match. (I think I heard a tiny scream.)  I’m taking a multi-vitamin now…which is recommended by my multi-opinioned doctor, and is nothing more than a white flag in my eyes. *Sigh* Yup…let’s face it kids, the big boy needs his power nap.

I didn’t take my thirtieth birthday hard. I was cool with it actually. I looked at it as a milestone. I was a force to be recognized with and I could properly use the term whipper-snapper without feeling out of my league at that point. But this year’s birthday…(and I’m not telling you how many I’ve had since, to my students, I’m eternally 28 years old.)…was different. It was solitary…and unnerving. Kinda like passing gas in church. Everyone around you knows it’s there. Nobody really acknowledges it…but afterward on the car ride home, everyone talks about it.

But, why should I be so concerned? Huh? I mean, who knows what’s in store for me tomorrow. My friend Chris has a saying that she spouts usually when she’s stressed:  “Maybe Jesus will come tomorrow and we won’t have to worry about a thing.” Who knows! Right? My brain could explode. A bulldozer could fall on me. I could get electrocuted by my $50, buzzing toothbrush. The neighbor’s dog could eat my neck. I could turn to stone! Anything can happen…and it won’t matter if it’s my birthday or not. It would be my time to go, and I will never see it coming.

I guess my unpleasant thoughts come from a “what if” perspective. I think about my life now and how blessed I am, and all the things I have done. Then I immediately think about all the things I’d like to do shortly after…and I sometimes feel that time is running out! But, perhaps that is a wildly “glass is half-empty” way of thinking. What is our life’s big adventure anyway?

With all the goals in the world (and I’m just thinking about mine…imagine the complex web of oft-dismissed goals of the world’s population) what will it all mean in the end? You can’t take anything with you…so why worry about it so much now.

So, why throw birthday parties? Are we saying “yea! No bulldozers fell on you this year!” Or is it truly a celebration of the day you were born? I think it should be a celebration of what you’ve done with your life. Good, bad, ugly….where ever you are, and whatever situation you are in…that one day a year you can say “dude…but look at all that you’ve done!”  And if you’re sittin’ in jail, or in the basement playing guitar hero with your only friend Buddy the hampster…then it’s a chance to say…”look at what I’ve done, and look at what I could do.”

Who care about the Costco cake with pasty frosting. Forget the rolls of streamers and the butterfly pinatas. (Is my family the only ones that do that?) Forget the gifts. They should really go to your mom anyway. After all she has to live with those purple veins in her legs.

But just like the old man in the “UP” movie, our big adventures is the every day. Everyday the Lord puts new things in our path so that we may endure and live and learn.Who knows what tomorrow brings. Crab legs? Rockin’ the night away to the tunes of a friend’s band? Three-bean salad? Who knows.

My birthday this year was a reminder that things are looking up.

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2 Responses to “One-Upped!”

  1. I sure am glad to have met you and to consider you my friend! You are an amazing and inspiring person! Just sending you a little love :)

  2. That was an extreme cry for HAPPY BIRTHDAY BUDDY-SORRY I was such a lousy friend and forgot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! JK ha! ha! Let’s go see West Side-how was it? Will call you soon-have had craaaaaaazy summer. MWAH!

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