|The author as a child. Not much has changed.|
(I say it that way so, when the big day arrives in 2014, I’ll have become desensitized to the pain.)
Last year, my son asked me if 24 was considered “mid-20s,” and of course I said it was, since he had just turned 24 and I knew where his thoughts were going. Early 20s would be up to age 23, I told him, and late 20s would be 27-29.
He remarked that he was getting old, and I chuckled. “You can tell me you’re getting old when your child tells you he feels like he’s getting old,” I said.
For the record: I am not getting old. I refuse to. And I’m only begrudgingly willing to grow up. Maybe. Some day. Despite the evidence I see in the mirror, I don’t picture myself as “old.”
Most of the time, and I think my family would agree, I have the interests and emotional maturity of a child. I’d rather watch the latest DC Comics animated movie (ask me about “The Flashpoint Paradox” some time) over anything on any sports channel, for instance. I’ll argue the merits of “Man of Steel” vs. “The Dark Knight Rises” any time you want to meet me at the comics shop.
Also, I’m useless when it comes to “adult” subjects like planning for retirement or understanding insurance benefits. That’s probably because I spend more time in my made-up brainspace than in the “real” world.
And then …
Earlier this week, my wife asked me if there was something special I wanted for my birthday, or if there was some place I wanted to go out to eat — and for possibly the first time ever, I didn’t have a ready answer. I can usually rattle off a dozen items on my current wish list.
It’s the perspective of the years like a sudden weight being forced upon us by recent developments in our lives, I think, that makes such considerations seem petty and difficult. Just one example: We recently returned from a trip to Pensacola, where we visited a relative who is undergoing chemotherapy to combat leukemia. She’s my age.
What do I want for my birthday? How about a miracle.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m incredibly thankful for our blessings. I’m alive and reasonably healthy seven years after bypass surgery, and my wife and kids are likewise healthy and reasonably happy. We’re employed, educated, and enjoy a middle class lifestyle, and we’re involved in creative communities of friends, family and acquaintances.
Every day should be a celebration, a gift — and it is. But sometimes, you just don’t know what to ask for.
If I take a minute to think about how I prefer to spend my free time, it’s really pretty simple. I’d like to look at some art, listen to some music, read a good story, tell a good story, draw and write, strum a guitar, see a film, have a conversation and a few laughs over a cup of coffee, hear my children sing, walk under a sky full of stars, float in the Gulf until the sun burns red through my closed eyelids.
So in the end, I guess, I still know what I want.
(This is my Undercurrents column for PanamaCity.com and The News Herald this week.)