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50 is the New Black

So where ever you are, whenever you see this, glass in hand or no, please join me in saying, "Thank you Lillie Mae for this moment your effort has brought into being."
Despite thinking last year I might want to approach birthdays differently, and this being one of those milestone years, I found myself responding to my roommate asking, "what do you want to do for your birthday?" with "oh shit, that's soon." A high school friend has been doing a "50 days to 50" thread on Facebook, essentially 50 days of gratitude.  My initial wish that I had thought of something similar was met with, "seriously dude? Do you even know who you are?" Aside from actually feeling like a huge number the most significant thing about turning 50 is that I will remember my age this year consistently without doing any math. Periodically I think it's fair to ask myself if I'm in denial, in some way, about aging, about where I am in my life, its composition. This isn't the life I'd have planned for myself 20 years ago. The one thing I anticipated was being a father. As far as I know, that hasn't happened. I'm a little surprised sometimes at how ok I am with that fact. Rather than being in denial about my age, having ruptured my Achille's tendon in the fall by taking a slightly faster than walking step, I'm very conscious of the process of aging right now. The easier to remember number remains somewhat arbitrary.

The one personal birthday tradition I continued this year was thanking my mother for it. The labor was all hers. I've been thinking about my mother a lot this year. Her birthday is my great-nephew's half birthday. My niece frequently shares videos of him. Since she commented on the timing of their birthdays I can't see video of him without connecting it to my mother. My birthday is exactly half a year from my brother's. My mother's, brother's, my and now my youngest great-nephew's birthdays all fall on the 10th of our respective months. In my childhood home it felt like we were a special trinity, the number ten a kind of totem. If I were more into numerology and astrology I'd have done more exploration, but recognize that the only real significance is emotional. My great-nephew's birthday feels evocative of that relationship both to the familial and to the way that personal totems lead to memories cascading, unfolding, one from another. I feel like I was given an opportunity to truly know my mother, or more accurately, truly know her again when she became a grandmother. It was, in a way, a glimpse into my childhood. It's difficult to track where the changes in our relationship were the result of my growth and changing awareness, the pressures from outside our relationship, or the difficulty of being a single parent. Regardless, it became clear how much more expressive her love was when not also combined with a mother's fear for her child. I think this is why I'm so ok with being childless. I'm not sure that there is a level of security that would leave me unafraid for my children with our current climate trajectory. If staving off the end of human civilization in 30 years requires drastic concentrated action in the present my DNA combined with that of another would cease to exist not long after I did. Much more macabre than I intended for my reflection on my birthday. Obviously, it's an age thing.


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