I never got depressed or stressed when I hit any of the milestone birthdays, the "big ones." Thirty, forty, fifty--those numbers were not all that big a deal to me. But SIXTY..hoo boy, that's a big number. That sounds old. You know, very senior citizen-esque. That's a lot of years of living on this earth. At that advanced age, you'd think I'd be the wisest woman in town, but this is not even close to the truth. (And we live in a pretty small VA town these days.) I still feel like the exact same person inside that I've always been, like the shy young girl who could hardly look at a cute boy when she passed him in the hall in high school (and then ended up marrying him--proving that anything is possible and dreams can come true!); however, my outside is starting to show a good amount of wear and tear.
But as my dear dad, who died almost two years ago, just one day shy of his 82nd birthday, would say, "It's better than the alternative." Dad loved birthdays. His last week with us, he knew he was dying but he REALLY wanted to hang on to celebrate one last birthday. That's how much love of life he had in him, even at the end.
So in his honor, I think I'll embrace 60 and remember that it is indeed better than the alternative. Especially when you are surrounded by the love of a big and ever-growing family.
A couple of weeks ago, when our youngest son was in VA with his girlfriend (on leave and in the States for the first time since last summer), the kids planned a dinner out at a restaurant in our little hometown. The four oldest boys and their wives got babysitters for all but our youngest grandchild (she was the youngest at the time, anyway--as reported in yesterday's post, another Pearl has since been added to the string), so it was a very rare grown-ups only dinner. I had been eagerly anticipating this night out with all of my favorite grown-ups on earth.
When my husband and I walked into the restaurant, I realized that it was actually a surprise birthday celebration for me as well--a few weeks early, since our youngest would be back in Germany on my actual "natal day," as my Dad liked to call it.
There were balloons!
But most importantly, there were these precious faces gathered around the table together. These are my people, and I am the luckiest 60-year-old woman on the face of the earth.
Young mamas, look forward to this. All the sleepless nights, changing dirty diapers, mediating squabbles over toys, fixing dinners for the pickiest of eaters, taxiing carloads of smelly football players, listening to your darlings' accusations of being "the strictest parents in the whole school"--all of those things you're going through now (and that's just the tip of the iceberg, of course) will be well worth it when your children become kind, thoughtful, responsible adults and fill your table with love and laughter, when they start having families of their own.
Life is indeed a gift. So I'll take 60, with a heaping helping of cake.