Birthday Reflections

What person doesn’t, as they approach and then enter the year in their life that marks the year a parent died, feel some trepidation? My father, my grandfather and even my husband died at the age of 70, and some little perversity of my mind has feared all year long that I would join them.  All my life, I have avoided black cats who crossed my path and walking under ladders. When I spill salt, I throw a bit over my left shoulder, just in case. It is not that I believe, necessarily , in these superstitions, but nonetheless, I avoid them. So it is with dangers in my seventieth year.  I stayed home more.  Avoided crowds and travel. I wrote more. Got my house in order—to a degree. I lavished attention on my animals, hoping they would remember me fondly, found surrogate parents for all but the cats. 

Poor cats.  I think those cats, however, represented that sane part of me who knew I would survive this milestone. I would be here to care for them for a good many years.  Perhaps twenty-one. Perhaps twenty-six.  My mother died at the age of 91, my paternal grandmother at 96. Perhaps it would be their genetic makeup in me that would determine my lifespan.  All ridiculous meanderings of a mind left too much in solitude, by choice.  Today I turned 71, riddled by amoebas as I was last year in the week approaching my birthday, but battling back.

Last night one of my best and oldest friends called to talk me into my birthday.  As we talked, Forgottenman sent a Happy Birthday message precisely at Midnight. I opened the cards sent by my sister.  She said they were pre-birthday cards. I await the official one. 

When my alarm went off at 8 this morning to awaken me for my morning dose of antibiotics, dogs and cats remained silent. A strange occurrence.  Usually, at the first signs of my stirring, they set up their morning cacophony. This morning, however, all remained silent.  It was fifteen minutes later, after I’d read Facebook greetings and checked blog statistics, that they set up a terrific clamor.  I heard a gate creak open, although no one was scheduled for work this morning.  A key turned in the front lock. My bedroom door opened.  It was Yolanda and family: Juan Pablo, Oscar, and Yoli, with chihuahua Bryan in arms. Oscar carried flowers. Juan Pablo a gift. It was a surprise early-morning birthday visit before they all drove Yolanda to work in La Ribera. I made coffee, poured fruit juice for the kids and small shots of a special pistachio mescal for the adults. Not me, as I’m on antibiotics. We took photos, tried to introduce Bryan the dog to my dogs.  Oscar cracked open the door to the doggie domain just a bit. My dogs, sniffing and curious, were friendly.  Bryan, the runt, snarled to assert his authority, there in the arms of Oscar, his protector.

We took photos and they departed. The amoebas that seemed to be in abeyance yesterday have returned full-fold.  The late afternoon lunch I had planned with friends, (a tentative appointment since they all, too, are suffering from amoebas) will probably not happen after all. My appointment with a doctor will. I’ll see her for relief from this yearly visitor that, when it departs, always leaves me with an increased enjoyment of life and health. A profound appreciation of just feeling normal. 

As I looked for something to remove from my laptop so I could move the photos you’ll see below there to work with them, I found this poem written a few months ago.  I’ve printed it before and then forgotten it, but reading it today as a stranger might, I realized that it encapsulates a lot of what I’ve been feeling this past year; so here it is again, read with a new appreciation of what it means. 

Swimming to Sandy Bottom

Working my way to sandy bottom,
through murky waters growing clear.
Through all the things I daily think of
down to the plain facts that I fear.

Swimming down to sandy bottoms,
down to past truths and future fears.
The daily details float behind as
I face old matters in arrears.

If my whole life should tell a story,
how do the details all add up?
I’ve always thought time was a sieve, but
perhaps I’ll find it was a cup.

Working my way to sandy bottom,
the flotsam of my years floats near.
All the past terrors and past glories,
and future truths I’ve come to fear.

Working my way to sandy bottom,
no oxygen to draw my breath.
Working our ways to sandy bottom,
we spend our lives to buy our death.

All the glories and the triumphs.
All the failures and the fears.
All the trophies we’ve collected,
and all the tattered, used-up years.

Working our ways to sandy bottoms,
will there be gold grains in the sands?
Too late to spend discovered riches,
they slip like lives right through our hands.

Working our ways to sandy bottoms,
our lives lift up as we swim down,
As we leave the past behind us,
we find our future all around.

Click on first photo and then on right arrows to enlarge all.

40 thoughts on “Birthday Reflections

  1. V.J. Knutson

    Funny what we fear. My husband confessed recently that he had expected to live so long (he’s 68). His father and grandfather died much younger. You are clearly loved and cherished – your morning surprise made me tear up. What a glorious start. Perhaps you bury the old fear now to mark a new start? Loved the poem. You are far too gifted to be done. Happy Birthday.

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  2. slmret

    Happy, happy birthday! You’ve made it past that dreaded 70 year, and are now ready to move into that future that is all around — may it be a very happy future!
    I had a similar year at 57, the age when my dad died. With my mother’s genes thrown in (she died at 96), I knew there was no likelihood of my demise, but it was still a scary thought! That was 20 years ago!

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  3. Relax...

    Happy Birthday! I may’ve surpassed my father’s death age, and my mom’s is coming up. I said to son not long ago, “I just realized.. you’re the age I was when Gram died.” Oddly, that felt like a milestone. I’ll take it! I hope your bug clears up immediately. I’m sorry you don’t feel well.

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  4. rugby843

    How strange to read this because I felt exactly the same way when I turned 70. My mom died at the age of 70 and I always thought, if I can make it to 70 I’ll be okay. And even with all my problems, I did and am still kicking. Funny how the mind works and we’re only using a tiny bit of our potential. Well except for T. I don’t think he uses any! I’m looking forward to 72 in September, so no worries! And a very happy birthday to you Judy! I enjoy your blog!🎂🌸🎉🎊🎁🎈

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    1. lifelessons Post author

      Thanks, Cheryl. And I was afraid people would find my post to be such a downer. You aren’t the only one to say they felt the same way. Sometimes it pays to just say how you really feel! xo

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      1. koolkosherkitchen

        When my step-mother turned 70, we had a huge pink chocolate baby carriage made, filled with all kinds of chocolate baby things, and the same little chocolate baby favors on each plate. No, I didn’t make that; I was still working about 80 hours a week then.

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  5. Marilyn Armstrong

    Happy birthday! You are the third of my friends to have a birthday today. I’m sorry about the amoebas. I made it to 71 in March. My mother only made it to 72, but my father was 92, so I suppose with a little luck, I’ll hit that middle point. I think at our age, thinking about how long we will live is not a good way to think.

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    1. lifelessons Post author

      I know.. mixed messages there. Happy Birthday but a bit of a downer poem. I was surprised by the number of people who identified with it. I guess it is inevitable that birthdays–especially ones after sixty, bring us to these thoughts.

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  6. Pingback: Sunday Share: Birthday Reflections – transcribingmemory

  7. Val

    I was actually afraid for my sister who has now (thankfully) passed the age at which our mother died. I have several more years before I reach it myself – whether I’ll fear it for myself, I’m not sure. Anyway, happy belated birthday. I came over via a comment you posted in Transcribing Memory. And I think I may have followed your blog some years ago when I had a different one of my own.

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    1. lifelessons Post author

      Thanks, Rabbitpatch. Strange things happen at WP occasionally. For many, it is that we suddenly get tossed into spam. For others, we suddenly lose blogs we’ve formerly followed. Might be as simple as mistakenly hitting the follow button again and thereby unfollowing without meaning to. Good to have you back again.

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