Fifty is just a number.
The fifty yard line is half-way to the end zone in football. Fifty bucks will sometimes cover a decent meal at a nice restaurant for two, with no drinks or desserts on the ticket. Fifty miles will get me an hour closer to the Wyoming border from here.
But fifty years old? Yeah, it is just a number, but a pretty big one.
My birthday is next Monday, a lesser known National Holiday, but if you need a day off, just tell your boss I said it was okay. It is a floating holiday each year, but I only get one day of me every 365-days so I take it.
I’ve always treated my birthday as a big deal, because my family did. Candles, balloons, cake, good food and a song sung, just for me. I know the song was just for me, because my name was mentioned among the lyrics.
Heck, sometimes kids not related to me were allowed to visit and join in on the celebration. And while stuff is not nearly as important as it was a couple dozen birthdays ago, it is kind of nice to at least be offered stuff on my day.
Those numbers started to mean something. At first it meant I got to be older than some of my classmates. But with a spring birthday, I was really one of the younger kids in my class. Then at some point it meant it was time to grow up. The teenage years meant jobs, and then of course, the first goal line birthday was 15. The learner permit era and the time to practice driving the car and looking cool.
Sixteen, of course made the actual driver’s license a viable option, seventeen not too much new, but the big 18 was all about the magical tripwire. One minute you’re still a kid, the next, you can get in huge trouble for poor choices as a young adult. For me at that time, it was the right to vote, a chance at legal, albeit watered down 3.2 beer and the ability to sign up for U.S. Marine Corps. Be careful what you sign, those contracts are taken pretty seriously.
Of course, 21-years-old is the modern welcome wagon for alcohol, and other adult choices. Also, and it’s completely optional, one can get married at 22, like me. At 25, one can rent a car, get a better vehicle insurance rate and in my case, become a father for the first time. Another lucky choice, as the whole Dad thing adds to the happy.
Time flies when you’re having fun.
Actually, time flies when you’re miserable too. Through sickness, health, losing loving family members and friends. Time -as the cliche reminds – waits for no one.
Time certainly has not waited or even slowed down for me. Although there were a couple days in high school, those late afternoon spring classes where I could have sworn time stopped.
I know folks who downplay the birthday thing. I know some have never really liked to think about the numbers. I get that. Sometimes I get pretty dismissive about the aging process myself.
Paint by numbers can be fun, so it is time to color in another pattern is all. Numbers do so many things, but they never lie. Five decades is pretty darned good.
I don’t feel the fifty. Well, my right knee does feel over forty, and my right shoulder is aging rapidly. There is no way I can claim to be mature enough to be this old. If I find a T-Shirt that says “the first fifty years of childhood are the hardest” I am so buying that thing.
I’m not going for all glib on this deal. I’m clearly closer to the finish line. And pain has been a part of this otherwise glorious run. However, as one of my new favorite quotes by an unknown author describes it best, “Healing doesn’t mean the damage never existed. It means the damage no longer controls our lives.”
Limping along with a bum knee aside, the emotional aspect of life is in a constant state of healing. Bad stuff happens everyday, how I choose to respond to it is on me. And so yeah, immature for sure, yet just enough wisdom to embrace my next birthday.
I am blessed, loved, with a sizable pile of family and friends. I recall how my wily grandfather essentially hit a life reset button at the age of 50. He thoroughly enjoyed his next three decades on the planet. I will endeavor to live his example and hopefully laugh as loud and as often.
I may not get another three decades. Hell, with traffic around these parts, I’m lucky to be alive at all. Eastern philosophy reminds us the past is the past, and no tomorrows are promised us, so focus on the now. Sounds like a deal.
And while I was never good at math, technically speaking, I will only be 50 for one second. By the next tic of the clock, I’ll be over fifty. A whole new world. A new demographic and a chance to push on toward another year in this crazy, wonderful, sad, bizarre world.
Five decades later, and thus begins the age of contentment.