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. Continue reading “43.”

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. Continue reading “42.”

40 Candles

xp-worlds_greatest_tall-40_year_old_female-leftIf you had approached 10-year old me and told him where he would be at 40, he probably would have laughed in your face. Because 10-year old me wasn’t remotely interested in the future, for what would pass for life after… well, 10. It was all about the present then, all about the moment, and I was living firmly in it.

Of course, though, as years pass, the focus starts to shift, probably because there isn’t enough wide open future there to ignore anymore. It happens like clockwork (no pun intended), the passing of the years a metronome ticking louder the further we advance into life. But at 10 there’s no way of knowing that things will change, no way to savor the moment because they are fleeting.

When I turned 20 there was an anticipation in the air, a sense that life was just beginning. There were still no bags under my eyes, getting out of bed wasn’t a creak and a groan, and I wasn’t hyper aware of the advancing years. In fact, I was looking forward to 21 with a vengeance, because it would mean I was an adult. My life wasn’t perfect but I could tell it was headed somewhere, which was a first for me.

I was keenly aware of the passage of time even then, though. I wasn’t like 10-year old me, wide eyed and innocent, anymore. Life wasn’t all about getting the physical things I wanted. I was also looking for happiness, for whatever would fulfill the hole that had already begun to widen itself in my life. I’m not sure if I realized back then that it was because I had no concrete relationship with my father. That would come later.

What I do remember feeling the most was that there was an untapped potential, but that I had no way of reaching it. There was possibility at 20 that I had never really explored before, a life that I hadn’t questioned. That was the tipping point with me and religion, with me and my mother, with me and the city of Philadelphia, as it turned out. Significant change was coming. I just didn’t see it yet.

Then change came, and with it a shifting of location, an acceptance of what I could not change, and the courage to change the things I could. I guess you could say it was similar to having an addiction because the more I realized it was bad for me, the more I couldn’t say no to it. And I mean everything. Between 20 and 30 was the time of most change in my life, even as things began to finally stabilize. It was the time for opposites to both be true, and for a little introspection. For the first time in my life.

At 30 I knew the world was changing around me. I was no longer the youngest person in most rooms, and I was keenly aware of that. When I told people I was 21 they laughed at me, and I knew I was supposed to possess a maturity I didn’t feel I truly had at that point. Others looked at me differently, not just as a young man, but the way I looked at my father when I was young. I was married, and I already had a child by then, so my priorities had done a 180. It was a transitional time, in every sense of the term.

And this past decade has been nothing short of a whirlwind, this experiment taking a few twists and turns along the way. I’ve had two huge happenings in my life, a few scatterings of focus shifts, and a whole lot of that earlier introspection, magnified to defcon 10. It’s like my 30s were a battle ground to see who was left standing at the end, and somehow I’m still here, looking at 40 candles on this cheesecake.

The word that comes to mind is blessed, but that’s from 10-year old, clear-eyed, innocent me. I haven’t been that… uncluttered in a very long time. Because life is complicated. That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned over these past 40 years, that life is a series of moments strung together that create what we have before us now, for better or for worse. It’s decisions that have consequences, and repercussions, and often unforeseen side effects. But it’s also a beautiful thing.

Creaks, groans, and all.

Sam

“Now we are 10.”

10561527_10206438781953324_195592007939548333_n10 years ago today Heidi went into labor. It was our first labor, but we had some idea what to expect. We had gone to the birthing class, where we were surrounded by other first-time parents who were also trying to prepare themselves for the inevitable — birth. I’m not sure what the rest of those parents who were there would say today, but I remember thinking that there was so much to process and to filter that I had no idea where to begin.

I still have no idea.

I do remember this day 10 years ago though. I got the call while I was teaching. The kids were ready too. I prepared them for it all year up to that point, letting them know that when the time came I would be gone. That day I was grading their presentations when the phone rang and they all were locked onto every single syllable I said. Of course they had a pool going on when the kid would come, and I could see one of the girls in the back grinning from ear to ear. I think she had the 27th.

Anyway, from there it was a hop, skip, and a jump back here to pick up my wife, who was already counting the time between contractions. She was always so efficient. See, that class wasn’t a waste of time after all. We took our time getting up to Cooperstown because the road conditions aren’t usually great this time of year, and it was no different that year. Besides, we knew we had plenty of time before the kid would really make its appearance 4437_1153224235916_3207247_ninto the world. Everyone knows that your first usually takes the longest time. At least we hoped so, at least on the drive there.

It would take all night, until 6:28 the next morning, before our little bundle of Joy (Alexa Joy, that is) finally emerged alertly into the bright lights of this harsh world. She made me believe in love at first sight. I still can’t believe that was 10 years ago. It seems like just yesterday at times, and at others I can’t even remember what the world was like before she was in it. 10 years ago I got the job that will be with me for the rest of my life, a job that comes with the ultimate responsibility and the emotional toll that can’t help but join in along the way.

Thinking back on that night, when we were on our way to Cooperstown, the final night we would be just husband and wife, before we would be labeled parents forever, I was just hoping that Heidi wouldn’t feel too much pain. I was trying to transfer my sense of peace and calmness to her, because it had been a tumultuous pregnancy where pretty much everything that could happen did. And yet we had been oh so lucky that we had even gotten to that point. It was an arduous journey just to make it down that road. But the light at the end of the tunnel was so brilliant.

And she still is. 10 years later.

Happy birthday, my little angel.

Daddy

On Turning 39

39th_birthday_designs_card-r04129f56a30a48daafab4521ccbf8d7f_xvuat_8byvr_324I remember all of my birthdays, starting with the one to commemorate my turning 6. I had a Batman cake that year, and I recall the Batman looked a little wilted, and I said as much to my mother. It was the old school Batman with the non-form fitting suit. In fact, if I’m not mistaken the one on my cake had a blue utility belt and boots that would have been more at home being worn by Elvira. Oh, and he was smiling. Batman never smiles. But the cake tasted good, which was all that really mattered anyway.

Yesterday was the 39th anniversary of my birth. There was no pomp and circumstance because that’s the way I wanted it. Sure, my Facebook Timeline was exploding with all the messages, well-wishes, and jokes about my advancing age, but that was something separate from me, like some apparition floating along beside me. I acknowledged it without spending too much time breathing it in and letting it define me. Otherwise I was here, and no one saw me except the people who also live here.

My mother called, and she’s finally realized my actual age, which is fine. I used to take insane pleasure in the fact that she would get my age wrong, but she’s fixed that issue. I knew her getting that new phone would come back to ruin my silly little pleasures. But it’s okay. She called me right 11218902_10207635426748855_4355396860113741347_nabout the same time I was born, even though I doubt she knew that’s what she was doing. It was odd to talk to my mother on the occasion of my 39th birthday because to me she is still 39, the eternal age I’ve given to her since I was 10. Acknowledging that I’m a year away from 40 is to admit that my mother is that much older than I see her in my mind.

I watched my favorite movie too, a film I’ve seen some 40 times (wouldn’t it be interesting if I counted all of my viewings of it and there were precisely 39?) and I never get tired of it. There’s just something comfortable about watching a film I internalized ages ago, a movie I’ve made a part of me in so many significant ways. And I don’t expect others to understand, but I do expect them to appreciate the fact that it’s this way for me, to let me watch it uninterrupted, and to bring me snacks when what I want are snacks.

It was a relaxing day altogether, and while there was no Batman cake, there was a spectacular dish of banana pudding complements of my wonderful wife, who tells me that 39 is not that important. She says that 40 is also not that spectacular, that I can look forward to more aches and pains, but that’s been true since I turned 30. My wife is older than I am, and I look forward to getting to her age. Of course, though, when I get there she will be inexplicably older still, forever out of my grasping reach. She says it’s okay, though, because that’s the hand we’ve been dealt and we should embrace it like it was a second skin.

So how do I feel about 39? I’m still undecided. After all, it’s only been a day. But what I can say is that I certainly don’t feel 39, for what that’s worth. insomnia-quote.jpgWhen I got up this morning I was exhausted, testament to getting to bed after 11pm and having to awaken at 5:45am. At 19 I was able to parlay one hour of sleep into a full day at a frenetic pace. By 29 my necessary sleep to avoid being an ogre was five hours. And now… well, now, let’s just say that I know the consequences but I still don’t get the amount of sleep I need. But maybe that’s not 39. Maybe that’s just being stubborn.

I have decided, though, that 39 will be a transformative year. I’m going to publish two novels this year. I’m going to teach my children something they haven’t learned yet this year. I’m going to show my wife even more how much I appreciate her this year. I’m going to live life to the fullest because no time is guaranteed to me. That’s one thing 39 has taught me even in its infancy. That’s one thing I will carry with me during my 365 days of 39-hood. Oh yes, and this blood pressure medication too.

Sam

The Birthday Conundrum

1186287_10202044355015556_403318749_nIt’s my sister’s birthday tomorrow, and I don’t know what to get her. I’ve known her my whole life, so I know the things she likes. I know the things she treasures. And I know what I want to get her on her birthday. The only problem is that since I’ve known her my whole life, and because I know her so well, I’ve already gotten her all the things I can think of, and then some. I’ve done the sentimental gift, the expensive gift, the quirky gift, and everything in between, so now, on the occasion of her 40th I honestly have no idea.

And it’s killing me.

Maybe I should have saved up all those ideas that I utilized between 30 and now, all the cards and boxes wrapped in pink and blue, all the pictures in photo albums, all the random but personal heartfelt presents, in the hopes of giving her something hugely personal and intricately special. You know, to match the importance of the occasion. But I didn’t save them up, and maybe I wouldn’t have anyway, knowing as I do now how her face lit up with each one. So now I’m stuck in the same place I was at when I began.

What to get her?

I could go traditional and pick up something that appeals to one of her hobbies. She has enough of those that it could work. Except that I’ve given her something for each one at some point in the not too far off past. I could go the minimalist route and get her a “choose her own adventure” gift card to the store I know she frequents most. At least I know she will get use out of it, but it’s so impersonal. Or I could go all newfangled and surprise her with some type of latest electronic equipment. While it would scream “I cost a lot,” is that what I want her to think when I give it to her?

Sigh.

So I’ve decided to write her a letter, an old-fashioned letter like we used to do in the olden days, like she still writes me now and again. And I know she would absolutely adore a handwritten letter from me, one I took my time on, one that I dropped off in the mail by hand and that took its time getting to her. I know she would appreciate every single word, regardless of what those words actually say. It’s been ages since I wrote a real letter, since I got behind this computer screen and got back down to business.

Yes, it’s perfect. Now to find paper and pen.

Sam

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: