Thursday, September 20, 2007
Birthdays are not what they used to be. I remember as a kid when September 20th came around it was a special day. There was the birthday party and my friends would come over to the house and they would bring presents and we would have birthday cake and ice cream. After they all left I would spend the rest of the day and night playing with all the new stuff.
There is no doubt the best birthday was when I turned 16. I was now old enough to legally drive although I drove around town at least a couple of years before that. But there was something very special about being able to drive to pick up your favorite girl and go to a movie. I remember having that special girl in my car (1964 push button Plymouth) at a movie theater and being embarrassed because my tire was stuck over a curb and I could not drive away. After getting help to get it “unstuck” I finally realized I had the parking brake on. When you are sixteen you are old enough to drive but you are not old enough to have a lot of common sense. But it was no doubt the best birthday.
I’m not sure how it happened but the “specialness” of birthdays started going downhill after sixteen. The truth is I don’t remember too many after that but there were a few.
I remember turning 30 and a group of my married friends surprised me with a birthday dinner at a restaurant in the big city of Macon, GA. Someone paid for a scantily clad woman to come to the restaurant and sit in my lap and make off color jokes about turning 30. I must have already been suffering from IBS then because one of the gag gifts was a pot to take with me in the car.
When I turned 40 my wife totally surprised me. We left the Wednesday night family supper at church and we were headed home but she kept driving. We picked up another couple down the road and off we headed toward Florida. I did not have a dime with me but my wife had planned it all and had it all worked out and had even packed my suitcase. We went on a surprise Caribbean cruise. I have no idea how she kept the secret but I did not have a clue.
Turning fifty was another surprise party and it was an emotional one. My wife planned a banquet and invited all my family and some special friends along with three other folks who lived with us at different times when they were growing up. Most everybody there gave speeches about special memories. I kinda felt like I was at my own funeral but there were a lot of laughs and a lot of tears… at least for me.
But turning 53 was almost just another day. If not for the emails and phone calls I would have never known the difference. But when you get my age the emails and phone calls mean more than they ever did.
I received phone calls from all three of my sons, my daughters in law, my two brothers, my sister and my pastor. And there were other emails , electronic cards and phone calls from special friends who somehow remembered that today was my birthday. A few of them brought tears to my eyes
One very important call came tonight from a lifelong friend. He calls me every year on my birthday and I do the same on his birthday. We were born 17 days apart. Although we don’t see each very often those calls come just like clockwork. This morning he sent an email saying he would call me later today. The email ended with this closing: Your friend for 53 years.
I’m not sure how many folks out there have friends that have lasted for 53 years but relationships like that are much more valuable than silver and gold.
When you get to be my age, parties and presents don’t matter anymore. The people in your life are the greatest gifts life has to offer.
And those gifts get more important each and every day.