It is a largely nondescript Saturday evening. A group of people have gathered in a restaurant. There are candles on a cake. Presents on a table.
There are forty-two or forty-three people in all. I would count them later. Why were they all here? It must be bingo night. Or they must be having a raffle or something, giving away cash.
No, they are here for me. Some by choice, some because they're family -- they're required to love me. There are aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, even a former co-worker and her husband.
I am caught off guard. When my sister asked me out to dinner, I had been suspicious at first. But by the time we arrived at the restaurant, I had forgotten to be.
There is a face cake, with me as a kid of probably seven or eight, with my Bo Duke hair, wearing a football jersey, shoulder pads, football pants, full uniform. Funny thing, I never actually played football on a team or anything. But still, a face cake!
My Mom was nice enough to bring an essay I wrote in grade school, "The Person I Admire The Most." The person I chose to write about? Axl. He is at the party, and he is LOVING this.
"Come on, we were in the fourth grade!" I really thought we were.
"Bone, we were in seventh grade."
"What? So I wrote this when I was like thirteen?"
"Oh... well... that is
a bit more embarrassing."
He will milk the essay for every last drop. I wouldn't expect anything less. That's not to mention all the "You write like a girl" comments the essay drew.
Elsewhere, Nephew Bone is proudly displaying Uncle Bone's age with his fingers. (Is this really the sort of thing we want to be teaching our children?) Or attempting to anyway. More times than not he winds up holding up four fingers on each hand.
There are the requisite gag gifts. At least, I hope they are gag gifts -- Polident, chocolate laxative, and a Viagra bottle filled with M&M's. At least, I hope they were M&M's.
It strikes me more than once during the evening that the next time this many people show up for me will be at my funeral. Or wedding. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to. (What? Either way, I'll most likely be in a suit and people will be crying.)
There is an ease to the evening. A comfortableness. But still, there is an underlying feeling I can't seem to escape. A feeling of "I can't believe this is me."
And yet, it is.
I still feel twenty-five most of the time, save for maybe
Friday evenings when a week of work and waking up at 5:30 has caught up
with me and I fall asleep on the couch by 8 PM. And yet, these candles on the cake betray me.
There, I said it. I admit it's been a little tough for me. And yes, I know that if I live long enough, someday forty will seem oh so young. I guess I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do now, how I'm supposed to handle it. Do I just pretend to take it all in stride, when suddenly life doesn't seem quite as long as it used to seem?
Am I not supposed to say that? Is it taboo? It's sure easier not to think about it, if only for sanity's sake. So much more convenient to put it out of mind.
And yet, we mark the passing of these years with, of all things, candles. Has ever there been a thing more symbolic of the life's impermanence than one of these? Coming to life, burning to its peak of brightness, flickering for a little while, and then gone, all in a matter of moments. (I don't know about you, but I think this is shaping up to be one of my funniest posts ever!)
I read a quote recently that I would butcher badly if I tried to paraphrase. But the gist was that life is made up of a million instants. There is this instant, and that instant, and as soon as they are here they are gone, a part of our past.
So there is right now, then there all the days of our past and all the days of our future. And I suppose I have always tended to yearn for the larger of those. When I was young, I longed to be older. And now that I am older...
People have been saying all the usual things to try and be helpful/keep me from losing it: "Life begins at forty." "Forty is the new thirty." Or even better, "Forty is the new twenty-five." "You're just a baby." (I gotta admit, it was refreshing hearing that from someone other than a current or ex-girlfriend.) "You're not really forty, you're eighteen with twenty-two years experience." And my personal favorite, "Studies have shown that people who have the most birthdays, live the longest."
Still, it's just weird for me to think about not being here someday. Me! Bone! I mean, take a moment and try and picture each of your lives with no Bone in it....
Not a few seconds, a moment...
Not a pretty sight, is it? Didn't think so. Here, have one of these odd-shaped blue M&M's. They've sure been making me feel better.
I'll close with a photo. My aunt who snowbirds in Florida sent me a birthday card. Inside, she had included the newspaper clipping of my first birthday.
(My God, was I adorable! I could have been the Gerber baby! Kinda makes you wonder what in the world happened.)
She wrote, "I came across this handsome little boy. Thought you'd like to keep it as I have all these birthdays. Lots of love..."
It brought me to a complete stop.
Out of life's million little "instants," only a cherished few are able to do that.
"Guess my life's moved / At near light speed / Since I started this wild and crazy run / Such a long way / From that first birthday..."