Yesterday was my birthday, one of those ending in a zero, of which this was the sixth such in my life if you don’t count the actual date of my birth. (Apropos of which, why don’t more people sing “Happy Birthday to You” on the day their children are born? Donna and I did, back in 2005. If you have the opportunity to do so, try it; it’s kind of fun.)
OK, I’m old. That’s what much of the world wants me to say, right? I don’t feel old, but I suppose I am, as they say, not a kid anymore. Nor, to be honest, do I want to be. My feelings about birthdays have long been mixed (take this post, for example), but I’ll take this one standing up. “It beats being dead,” people around my age commonly say around their birthdays (of course, nobody who says this has yet died, so how do they know?).
No, but really. Having been through…some…stuff myself, as people my age tend to have been, I have to say I have a special liking for other people who have been through…some…stuff themselves, not necessarily the same stuff, but some…stuff in general. I don’t want to raise the banner of Barry Manilow, king of cheese, but I’ve been thinking of his old song “I Made It Through The Rain.” Yes, I did, Barry, but the point is, after I got rained on I didn’t keep my world protected and I didn’t keep my point of view. That’s what distinguishes me from those who haven’t been rained on yet. Call me. We’ll talk.
On the afternoon of my birthday the Fiancee and I went to the Celis Brewery’s 2nd anniversary party (fitting, since 20 years ago I spent my 40th birthday at the Beer and Flowers Festival in Laško, Slovenia). I’m calling it a Chapter 11 party, since the owner, Christine Celis, recently declared bankruptcy in order to keep operations going. Wise move, Christine, and better times ahead. Drink ’em if you got ’em. I’ve had better than the pomegranate witbier, but it wasn’t bad, and points for creativity.
Does Carole King have a monopoly on the metaphor of life being a tapestry of multicolored disparate threads? (Mine would be broken and tied back together inexpertly in places, but it would be serviceable.) There are a lot of things I don’t know about — being a drug addict or alcoholic, being the child of abusive parents, spending years in prison, being a touring singer-songwriter — but these are among the things I have experienced in my life:
Being the son of a German Jewish Holocaust survivor.
Being the parent of an autistic child.
Being a widower, of about three and a half years’ standing at this point.
Being an expat, having lived for about five years in lovely Slovenia.
And what have I learned from all these experiences?
Being the son of a Holocaust survivor has taught me to not have any patience for governments who put children (and adults) in concentration camps on the border.
Being the father of an autistic child has taught me to have respect for people of different abilities, and to see potential in unlikely places.
Being an expat has widened my view of international cultures and also of the possibility of living successfully and happily in different lands, among different peoples, and not limiting myself to my home country as the be-all and end-all (don’t get me started on that).
And being a widower on the verge of his second marriage? Among many other things, there’s this positive: It’s opened my eyes and heart to the knowledge that love is infinitely expandable, love is love, and in the words of the old TV theme song, love is indeed all around.
There was one other thing I did on my birthday that I’d like to note: In the early afternoon I walked down to my neighborhood park with my children and the Fiancee, and placed a bouquet of roses there, in colors mirroring the flowers at our wedding (she was partial to a rich orange hue).
Because yesterday would have been her birthday too.
We were born eight minutes apart, after all.
I don’t want to go back, and let us not speak of moving on. But we do go forward, all of us, until the point where we all meet up again, at the gates of Heck.