43.

Year 1 must have been fun. I was the center of attention, the new “bundle of joy” that burped, burbled, smiled, laughed, and occasionally cried. But there was nothing else that could compete with these dimples. Of course I don’t remember any of it. My mom says I was a little nightmare, but I’m going to go ahead and assume she meant perhaps toddler stage. At 1, I was a treasure.

I do remember year 6, and kindergarten, and making new friends. Okay, so there were really only 2 friends, but that’s 2 more friends than many others can lay claim to even now. Hmmm. Do I have 2 solid friends right now? But yes, in year 6 I learned how to tie my shoes, to count numbers, and of course the art of manipulation. I know I was fascinated with the shadows and light on the television screen back then. Maybe I still am.

Then there was year 22, which started off with a bang, even though year 21 ended so poorly. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say I didn’t go through the rites of passage in quite the order they were supposed to be experienced. It was the first time I realized how stupid I was, how complex the world was, and how far I was away from the person I hoped I was going to end up being.

It was also the first time I realized time is finite, that I wasn’t going to live forever. Funny how much that realization changes everything.

Year 32 was full of so many new experiences too. I was a family man, and the family was finally complete, though at the time I thought there might still be a new addition or two forthcoming. On some level I’m glad that didn’t happen, because from this side of the glass everything is perfect how it is, but on another level I still held out hope for another seismic shift to the dynamic.

And now I am reminiscing on year 43, which was full of tradition, a lot of firsts, and just a warm and fuzzy feeling I haven’t had for a very long time. I am no longer the center of attention, which is fine. As a father this is what I hope for, to put my family first, to make sure my children are cared for, to give them what I can, for however long that I can.

Today is my birthday, which means it’s my favorite day of the year, but it too has morphed, has changed from the selfish whims of my youth to a more calm and reflective time (could you tell?). This day has been spent with my children and my mother, which in itself gives me pause. I am the perfect center to this day, situated as I am in the middle place, still being a son but being a father also, a congruence of positioning that makes me smile.

Now year 44 stares at me in the mirror, challenging me to come meet it, to come grab it by the hand and skip along into the uncertain future. Except I haven’t been able to skip for a good 20 years or more. My bones are just a little more brittle. My step is just a little more uncertain. But when my children look up at me and ask me to spend time with them, I get downright jaunty. They keep me young, even when the calendar looks at me and judges, even when the mirror reflection laughs at me.

For that, along with many innumerable blessings, I am grateful. Yes, year 43 was a good one, but I’m ready to embrace what else is out there. And let it embrace me.

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