Yesterday was my birthday. I spent the day with my ten-month-old grandson, Baker. We alternated between playing with his stuffed ‘my first basketball’ while watching the March Madness games and him practicing walking. He gave me my first “Happy Birthday Grandma” card and reminded me why I need to stay healthy. Being with him was the best present.
I think of my birthday over the years and how I’ve chosen to celebrate. Last year I took my Solo Journey and was traveling south on I-95 on my special day. That evening I arrived in Bradenton, Florida and ate dinner with my cousin, Linda. I’d taken my trip earlier than usual because I was anticipating our grandson’s birth in May and didn’t want to be away in case he came early. On my way to Linda’s, my sister called to wish me a happy birthday and told me that the day before would have been Linda’s son, Joe’s birthday. He’d died less than two years before at the age of 47. It was the second year of Linda grieving the loss of her son on his special day.
Linda and I went to dinner that night, and ate delicious Gulf Coast shrimp and talked about Joe. I’d gotten to know him better in the years before he died, mostly through phone calls and a couple of visits. He’d asked me to purchase some ‘Duke wear’ for him at their student store. It helped to brighten his mood, wearing the ‘Cameron Crazy’ blue hair when he watched the games, a counterbalance to the constant barrage of health problems. My meal with Linda was bittersweet, tasting of salty seafood and tears. My bond with her was strengthened during our visit and I was reminded of how God’s spirit leads me in where and when to take my journeys– that one just happened to be at my birthday– and Joe’s.
Four years ago when I was celebrating the Big 60, my friend, Delores and I wanted to do something special together– since she’d be celebrating the same milestone in February. We chose to go for a three-day stay at the Clear Creek Dude Ranch in the mountains of North Carolina. She’d been there several times with her granddaughters and felt comfortable riding horses. I hadn’t gotten on a horse since that one time on my Wyoming journey which had been four years prior.
As it turned out, our initial morning ride was the first time the wranglers had led a group on that trail in the spring season. When we went down the side of the mountain, through a laurel grove, the trail had washed out due to the melted snow. It was a bumpy and steep descent and I held on for dear life. The wranglers seemed as surprised as we were at the rough path. I managed to stay on the horse for the twice-daily rides while we were there, but I vowed that if I ever got on a horse again, it would be on a flat, sandy beach with a soft place to land!
That trip to Clear Creek Ranch wouldn’t have been possible this year. Now, Delores is going with her husband to his treatment for melanoma that has been filled with complications. We keep in close contact by texts– because now she hardly has the time for one of our long and leisurely phone calls. I’m glad that we chose to do that for our sixtieth, our way to step into this decade.
Last October, when my husband, David was about to have his birthday, I asked him how he wanted to celebrate. He responded in typical fashion by saying, “I don’t want to think about it.” He added a comment about how he didn’t like getting older, how our “bodies fall apart after sixty.”
I get it; things change and ‘body parts’ do wear down.
But didn’t having breast cancer teach me to be thankful for each day and focus on what I still have instead of what I’ve lost? I don’t deny that things do wear out and we spend more time maintaining our health as we age, but I also think it’s amazing that things still work as well as they do at 64.
Tonight, our family will go out to dinner to continue my celebration. We’ve chosen a restaurant that has easy access to the outside, so if Baker starts his squealing– which is charming for his family, but likely, annoying for other diners, we can take him outside. Saturday night is free cake night with an entree, and they make the best cakes! We’ll choose different types and sample one another’s slices. And with the sweet taste of that treat, I’ll remember how good it is to celebrate in the way you choose, with the people you love, cherishing each year as the gift you’ve been given.
How About You?
How do you want to celebrate your next birthday?
Who are the people you’ll choose to be with?