I am 49 years old. For many people this is not a significant age, not with the big 5-0 coming up the next year, but for me it gives me pause. When my mother turned 49, she had no idea she only had ten more birthdays ahead of her. We never know, of course, how many days, much less birthdays, we have ahead of us, but now that I am within a decade of the age she was when she died I feel aware of the passing of time in a new way.
So what if I only have ten more birthdays? How would I like to spend them?
Obviously, a party will be involved. My husband ran away to Florida on his fiftieth birthday – I went with him of course – but I want to stay put and have people celebrate the fact that I have continuously breathed in and out for half a century. One of my sisters-in-law also turns fifty next year, so it would be nice if we could celebrate together with our family. I would prepare all of the food myself, because that is something I like to do, and then have someone else come in and take care of it during the party. Once everyone shows up I don’t like having to worry about making sure the food is replenished and the buffet is kept clean. Besides, I will be sipping champagne from my mother’s crystal stemware by that time and won’t put it down. Notice I didn’t say “won’t want to”; I said “I won’t”. There will be music and dancing and people telling funny stories – not stories about me, but funny stories nonetheless. And if I plan it right, few people will be able to make any age jokes because many people I hang out with and am related to are older than I am.
On this birthday, I am going on a retreat. All by myself. If I only have nine years left I want to make sure I am as clear headed about them as I can be. I see a weekend in the mountains, my own room with a balcony and a view, and nothing but time. I would consider a meditation or spiritual retreat, but I don’t want to feel forced to participate. There will be friendly people who will speak to me when I want them to, and who will simply nod and be on their merry way when I don’t. The food will be healthy and fabulous, and the wine will be local.
Since I left Gary alone on my last birthday, I will spend this one with him. When I was talking to him about this post he said I have to spend my fifty-second birthday with him because he was born in 1952. That’s as good a reason as any I suppose. I am going to do something daring on this birthday, so he has to come along for the ride. I asked him if he would sky dive with me, and he said that was too boring. Please note he has never sky dived. Sky dived? He has never been sky diving. On this birthday we are going white water rafting in the Grand Canyon. I have never seen the Grand Canyon and I would love to see it from the ground floor.
I’m going to go wherever my daughter is living and hang out with her. Gary can come along if he wants to, which he probably will because he kinda likes her too.
On this birthday I am going to go to Italy and eat my way through it. Oh sure I’ll see some really old buildings and marvel at a city with canals instead of streets, but make no mistake about it, I am going to eat. I am going to sit in a restaurant and let them serve me seven courses and I’ll stay there for hours and hours, eating and drinking and eating some more. Then I will go back the next night and do the same thing, except this time they’ll know me and we will be family.
This is the year that I go back to Hawaii. Gary and I went there a couple of years ago, but I have always wanted to return. I went surfing for the first time in my life at Waikiki Beach, and I have never forgotten the absolute joy of standing on that board. I laughed the whole way in the first time I really “caught” a wave. I have no balance, so for me to be on top of a surf board on top of the water and not fall off? That’s as close to a miracle as I have ever been a part of – the birth of my daughter not included. I want to stay in a small hotel on a secluded beach and do nothing but hang out with Gary.
Hoo-yah, this is the year that I retire! I will spend my birthday and the rest of the months of that year on the road traveling across the US. There is so much I want to see and I don’t want to be in a hurry to do it. I will visit family and friends in all parts of the country, and I will stay as long as I like or as long as they can stand us. But whatever else happens, by the time I hit …
I will be in California hanging out with my sister. That is the year that she will turn fifty-nine and I am not going to take any chances.
For my second to last birthday I want the various friends I have scattered about the country to meet each other. I would hate for the first time that Patt met Reid met Bridget met Briget met Laura met Pam … well, the last two know each other because they are sisters … met Julie to be at my funeral. They are wildly diverse women and I love them all, so they will love each other. At the very least they will have some good stories to share and we will laugh until we cry, or until I say that I am tired and it’s time to go to sleep. I am famous for being the first one out.
I think I will just wake up and see what happens.