42.

Maybe I’m really 24. Maybe the past 18 years have all been a dream. If I wake up tomorrow and I have no trouble getting out of bed, I’ll know it was all a lie. I’ll know I’ve still got a sizable chunk of my life left to live. I can’t be middle-aged. That’s not a possibility.

Except it is. And I really am 42. “How do you feel?” someone asked me on my Facebook timeline this morning. I miss when it used to be a wall. But that was just me stalling because I honestly don’t know. Am I really 42? Have I really traversed over 4 decades of this thing called life? What do I have to show for it?

Well, I have a wonderful family. Check. My knees may creak more than they ever have before, but I’m not doing too much kneeling anyway, so I’m okay. My children are both into the double digits agewise, which makes too much sense for me to make sense of. When did that happen?

I shaved my head this morning. I needed to take the obligatory birthday selfie, and it turned into a photo shoot. First I had hair, then some hair, then no hair. Click click. But my phone doesn’t make a clicking noise unless I figure out how to make that happen. I realized halfway through that I didn’t care to find out.

What else? I have a job that I love. I’ve had it for a year now, and I still pinch myself every morning before I head in. But I don’t have to work today. I’ve been sitting home, watching Back to the Future, and enjoying the company of my children. They are so grown I can envision a time when they are really grown. Which also makes me feel old. But accomplished. Old, but accomplished. I’ll take the tradeoff.

My parents called too. Not together. That would have been odd. But one after the other, like Dominoes, like they planned it that way. But that would have been odd too. I didn’t recognize my dad’s number, so I let it go to voicemail. I think it made him sad, but I can’t think too long about that. At least he remembered my birthday this year. I wonder if my mother knows that I’m 42.

Then it made me think. When I was growing up, she wasn’t even 42 then. I always thought she was so ancient from day 1, but she wasn’t even 42 when I went through adolescence. Now I’m the parent, and I’m 42, and my kids haven’t gone through adolescence yet (though one is on the very cusp and the other is not far behind).

So much time has passed that my Timehop can’t keep up. So much time has passed that I’ve forgotten quite a bit of it. I used to have a rock solid memory, and now I rely on photographs to remind me. “There is always something there to remind me.” I rely on fragments of memory snatched out of thin air when they appear. I hang onto them for all I’m worth before they’re gone again.

And I never answered the question, did I? How does it feel to be 42? How do I feel now that I’m 42? I honestly don’t know. So many others tell me they feel no different when their birthday hits, that it’s just another day. “I’m older every day,” they tell me, and while that’s true, I do feel different. I feel more of something. Maybe that’s all because I place such emphasis, such importance, on the anniversary of my birth. I shouldn’t care at this point, but I still do.

So it still holds importance for me. I take stock of my life, of everything that goes into me being me, and I know it’s all different now than it was even just 3 or 4 birthdays ago. Hell, it’s all different now than it was 1 birthday ago. I change every day, but I don’t take stock of those changes until another birthday rolls around.

And I’m grateful for the years. 42 of them. 43, here I come.

Sam

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