Today (Friday) is my fifty-eighth birthday. At this point in my life I can retire in two years, which seems really weird because until I was employed by the entity that pays me now, I had never held a job for over a year in my life. I’ll retire with twenty-eight years in.
I have a vague memory of a birthday party when I was a little kid, four or five years old, maybe, and I remember turning ten years old because I was in double digits. Ten was a milestone and I felt older. My friend Mark, who was a year younger than I, came over and we walked around talking about what it meant to reach ten years old. We were serious. We spoke of having memories that were six and seven years old, and if we would remember being ten. I remember turning thirteen, because I was a teenager then, and I remember sixteen because I could drive.
I turned eighteen in 1978, and I bought a case of beer, legally, right after school, and took my girlfriend home. We stopped and parked in the woods and I will always remember that. I got home really late, my father was totally pissed, and I listened to Alice Cooper’s “Eighteen” over and over again. It felt incredible. She’s a grandmother now, still married to someone else, and I still stalk her Facebook page on occasion.
At twenty I had a seven-gallon keg strapped down in a backpack and walked around giving away free beer. At twenty-five, I was in a hotel room in Mississippi, and at thirty I was with a friend of mine, a much younger woman, who was more freaked out over me being thirty than I was.
Time began to pass more quickly as I got older and there were fewer and fewer milestones and fewer reasons to mark them, really. I was married at forty and divorced by forty-three. Some friends surprised me with a small gathering at fifty, and after that, birthdays seem to pile up, like unfolded laundry sitting in the corner of the room.
I had a tradition of drinking good Scotch on my birthdays, but I really like Scotch more than I should, so I avoid it these days. I used to call old friends on my birthday but they are becoming fewer and fewer. One of them is a great grandfather now. I suspect he will be again one day, but because he smokes, his time will be much more limited than it might otherwise be.
At fifty-eight, I find myself caring less and less about more and more. I’ve lost interest in sports to a level I never thought possible. I don’t care as much about politics as I once did. I read more these days, write more, and I love my dogs. Both my parents are still alive, but I haven’t spoken to my father in nearly a year now, and I may not ever again. I have come to terms with this. It is as it is. I’ve learned to jettison toxic people and toxic relationships and never look back. That may be the most important thing I have learned in fifty-eight years.
PS My co-workers have a sense of humor, they do.