I’m a year older this week but surely no wiser. Isn’t it strange that the older we get, the more reluctant we are to acknowledge the passing years? A few days ago, a little friend of mine proudly told me that he was four-and-a-half. Not four, mind you; four-and-a-half! “Just wait,” I thought. “In a few years that ‘half’ won’t matter so much. Soon enough, you’ll be like me, counting in decades.”
Slow down time. Younger folk don’t seem to hear the drumbeat of the clock; we older ones not only hear it, but we also slap our hands over our ears in the hope that that ticking sound will recede to become a just a faint rumble like far-off thunder. It’s an honest deception. Despite all the sturm und drang of this weary world, it’s still a miracle we’ve come this far. I should know; I spent my birthday with our two youngest grandkids.
It was, to say the least, a different kind of birthday. No cake, but the kids’ bedtime was far, far better than any Smith Island fantasy. The ensuing peace and quiet were gifts that didn’t need wrapping paper or even opening. There were, however, several renditions of “Happy Birthday” with “to Geep” (my grandfather name) inserted into the “to you” spot. I have to admit that I like those lyrics better—they’re more personal, more earned.
Now don’t feel sorry for me. Plenty of friends wished me a happy day; that’s one of the more redeeming qualities of FaceBook. Nearby friends stopped by to share some time on the porch and watch the never-ending circus. My son, daughter-in-law, and two more beloved grandkids who live in Colorado popped up on FaceTime to wish me well. Looking back, I think the tempered celebration was all-the-more sweet because of the juxtaposition of youth and (dare I say?) old age. I was their age once and someday—God willing—they will be where I am, sharing a laugh with good friends, fondly remembering the departed ones, and watching their own grandkids run amok. Nothing is certain anymore, but we can hope for the best.
On the following day, we multiplied: two more grandkids arrived, along with their parents, all a little glassy-eyed from some celebrations of their own the previous day. No matter. We strolled the town, then sat down for a midday feast of ribs, baked beans, corn, cole slaw, and cucumber salad. I waited for a slice of birthday cake but in an excess of common sense, the adults in the room decided that the last thing the little clowns needed was more sugar before the long drive back home. In the ensuing calm that followed their lift-off, our little house seemed to breathe a sigh of relief, but I think I detected a tinge of regret, too. I went upstairs and took a nap.
Today, it’s b-day plus two and I smell something cooking in the kitchen. There’s a little sprucing-up going on, some whispering, and a celebratory stir in the air. I have a feeling that maybe there will be some cake after all.
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown, MD. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com