Preoccupied as I was, if I go into a deep trance I can almost remember that day in 1933. There I am doing the backstroke in an embryonic sea when my umbilical life was shattered. It took me years to stop crying. Or that could have been because my brother never forgave me for ending his status as an only child.
Birthdays are a sort of punctuation. Some are merely parenthetical to the chronicle. Others signify a moment of pause while end of decade years deserve an exclamation point. A jab of jubilation along with a sometimes agonizing reappraisal.
I have no memory of celebrating my birthday as a kid. Maybe nobody showed up for my party. More likely there was none. Times were tough. Cakes and candles were a luxury and my mother was a no-nonsense person. If I wasn’t invited to friend’s parties it was because singing Happy Birthday would have been embarrassing since I couldn’t carry a tune. I was designated a Listener by the music teacher and consigned to the last row at school where we were told to lip-sync the Star Spangled Banner.
Claude Monet lived till eighty-six; many seasons of hay stacks. He is experiencing a remarkably extended after-life on museum walls and that lotus pond at Giverny as well as images on coffee mugs, calendars and umbrellas. On the other hand when Vincent Van Gogh was my age he’d been dead for forty-nine years.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez also died at my present age. The last book of his I read was Love in the Time of Cholera, not to be confused with Trump in the time of Coronavirus. The two men
stand in stark contrast of how much and how little one can enhance the progress of civilization in their allotted time.
However prodigious the body of work contributed by great writers and artists that cannot be the measure of the person or the rest of us wouldn’t get through heaven’s gate. It is something other than the achieve of.
Too late for greatness. It’s enough to be good. Noble even, at times. Caring. Open-hearted. What David Brooks describes as a depth of character infused with gratitude. Anne Lamott calls laughter a form of carbonated holiness. That’s my kind of worship….worthship of fellow human beings.
Age is, of course, the supreme fiction. The calendar documents our years but our real age is in our spirit, not our weary bones; how we enthuse, our juice, our appetite for meeting each day. By this measure Peggy, nearing 99, is still in her youth and has blessed me with some of that nectar.
As for a bucket list I have none, except, for a pie in my face. And I’m not so sure about that unless it be key lime. I suspect there may be a hole in my bucket. All my grand wishes come down to one...dump Trump. I would hate to leave this realm on such a retrogressive note. I prefer to keep the illusion that we are progressively moving toward a larger pie, key lime or otherwise, with portions enough for all.
In addition, as long as it doesn’t cost anything, I wish I could listen better to what flowers have to say and for my bones to be more fluent in the language of music and my hands become instruments to strike the dark air for mellifluous sounds.