Saturday, February 9, 2013

Elegy for My Birthday

I turned thirty seven yesterday.  I know, it's not exactly a milestone, but then again, I figure that my birthdays stopped being milestones a long time ago.  After you turn twenty one, they start to become millstones.  You collect enough of them around your neck and eventually they drag you down into the earth and the loam and the worms.  That's a nice cheerful message, huh?  I should work for Hallmark.  I could make cards for a very specialized niche: Birthday Obituary.  "I was going to buy you a fancy new hat for your head, but I guess it turns out that you're already dead."  Then there would be a picture of sad-faced clown beating off into a top hat or something.  I'm just throwing some ideas out there in case there's anyone scouting for talent who drops by.

I've always wondered how I would handle the so-called "midlife crisis" when it comes along, that desperate moment when a person starts kicking around at life, second guessing their choices, dusting off old dreams, occasionally making fools of themselves.  Reminds me of stories I've heard about condemned prisons being led to their execution and suddenly surging with a desire to live, struggling against the guards for their freedom.  That's the part that always leaves a lump in my throat - more even then the thought of the execution itself.  It's the dread of the dread.  That's what gets you.  How did Roosevelt put it?  "Fear is not a factor"?  Wait, no.  That was Joe Rogan.

And yet, here I am, and I don't feel like a man in crisis.  No urge to scream or kick, curse or cry.  The days just move along, sweeping me with them.  I still want to do what I've set out to do, what I've always wanted to do, what I try my best to do at every opportunity.  I just want to write.  I remember when I turned six and my father asked me, "Well do you feel any different?  Do you feel six now?"  Then he asked again when I turned seven, and so on.  Of course, whether I was turning seven or thirty seven, I never felt any different, although I've obviously changed somehow in the intervening years.  But it's a slow change, gradual, like breaking in an old baseball mitt or one day noticing that a tree has grown to overshadow the yard, wondering how it happened, where you were.  And I suspect it'll go on like that.

Besides, I try to tell myself it's not the mileage that matters; it's the maintenance.  Right?  There's no significance in the number itself.  It's just another ring on the tree, another layer of bark, another trip around the sun.  But then I look at myself, at the weight I've gained, the horrible shit I insist on eating, the pathetic amount of activity and exercise I get.  Shit, I'd be better off pitching my lot with the numbers.  I should be so lucky.  Maybe I'll live long enough to see them build that machine.  You know the one.  You step inside and they push a button and it recombobulates your DNA and instantly restores you to perfect health.  No?  You haven't heard of it?  Well somebody had better get to making the fucking thing.

I guess this has come off as a rather morbid post.  But I don't feel morbid.  Hell, I don't even feel older.  I feel good actually, eager to start on my hot new greeting card career.  Although, hmmm... now I'm wondering why anyone would buy a card for someone who's dead.  Well, I guess it's like they always say.  It's the thought that counts. 

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