December is a crazy month for everyone. There's Christmas for most folks, Hanukah for our Jewish friends, and New Year's Eve for everybody. Time off work for parents, time out of school for kids, seeing relatives you generally only see once a year, buying gifts, it's all a lot of fun and a lot of stress.
But in the Smith household it gets even crazier during this season. You see, December 13 is my birthday, December 15 is our anniversary, and then my wife celebrates her birthday January 9. Of course, with both of us being teachers, this comes in the middle of semester exams for me and Christmas programs for my wife, who teaches music, as well as the normal holiday hullabaloo that everyone goes through. Needless to say, by February we are flat broke and ready for the relative calm of - well, the rest of the year.
So, want to walk through the last few days with me?
I woke up on my birthday, now 54 years of age. That means, for the next three months, I am 54 and my wife is only 53. I will be an "old man" till January 9, and then I will mysteriously become young again. Funny how that works! Anyway, she woke me up with a kiss and a "Happy Birthday!" and then started in.
"Do you need a cane to get out of bed? Or maybe my Mom's walker? Oh, wait, I bet you can't hear me! Shall I go buy you a hearing aid?"
It's going to be a long three weeks.
Really, birthdays used to not bother me as much, but recently they really have begun to get on my nerves. I mean, before 40, they are nothing. When that first digit is still in the threes, you can still honestly refer to yourself as a "young" person. Then, in the forties, the self-deception begins. It helps if you look somewhat young for your age, which most folks say I did and still do. It's always nice to find and, if possible, hang around with people who are younger than you but look older (and if they are fatter than you that's a bonus!). But in your forties, you can still reasonably say that you are young, or at least, on the low side of middle aged. After all, you are still active, look relatively decent, and can do most of the stuff you always did. But you begin to notice those activities take a bigger toll on you than they once did, and you take longer to recover from them. Then you hit the late forties, and that "I'm still young!" claim rings more and more hollow.
Then fifty comes along - the big Five Oh, the Half Century mark. At that point, you have to grudgingly acknowledge that you are, by no stretch of the imagination, young anymore. You may still feel that way from time to time (although those moments are fewer and further between), and you are certainly still allowed to act as immature as ever (something I specialize in, and working around teens every day gives me an excuse). But the fact is, after fifty, you're getting old. And every year over fifty, you realize that you are beyond halftime and in the third quarter - maybe even the fourth, who knows? You just want to avoid the "sudden death" part of the game if you can. Well, honestly, "sudden" death begins to have a certain appeal as you watch people not that much older than you going by inches from cancer, or diabetes, or any one of a number of other problems that can sneak up on you at any minute once you're past fifty, mostly because you accidentally and not on purpose ate several thousand cheeseburgers and fried pieces of chicken when you were much, much younger (like last week!).
But it was a nice day, nonetheless. My seventh graders brought me a cake (although they had this odd idea that I was supposed to share it with them - doubtless some adolescent concept that has come along since my time, but I humored the quaint notion and divvied it up with all seventeen of them, just to be nice). My wife got me a card that said "So you're a year older! Look at the bright side!" Now that's an admirable sentiment, until you open the card and it says: "Just kidding, there is no bright side! There's a bright light, but you're gonna want to stay away from that . . ." Very funny, dear. Actually it was pretty funny, to tell you the truth. My daughters got me a $40 WalMart gift card and a birthday card that had a picture of Jesus distributing loaves and fishes to a crowd, who were all whining about whether the fish had been tested for mercury, if the bread was gluten-free, et cetera, with an inside quip that said: "Ignore the complainers and have a happy birthday!" Good advice there, but what if I am the complainer? However, they also made me my favorite chocolate cake in the world, and I DIDN'T have to share it with a hungry class full of seventh graders, so bonus points for them there.
The day after my birthday I got a late present from my best friend, Ellie, and her daughter - a hardcover copy of George W. Bush's biography of his Dad (a beautiful little book, I had read it but didn't own a copy), and also a STAR WARS calendar from Ellie's little girl, who knows my taste in movies all too well. So, overall, despite my advancing years, I must admit this year's birthday really didn't suck.
Friday night was our 33rd wedding anniversary. Thirty-three years together for me and Patty, sometimes it feels like it's only been a few weeks (and, very rarely, it feels like it's been several centuries!). We both had to teach all day, but we met up after school and ate supper at Chili's (which was largely paid for by a gift card from work, always nice to go get good food and not have to pay for it!). I still think's Chili's original chicken crispers are perhaps the best you can get anywhere, and when you have cream gravy to dip them in - well, the world is your burrito! (Wow, I am really mixing up my food metaphors, aren't I?)
After dinner we went out on our big anniversary date: a movie night to see STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI! Now, I would not spoil anybody's enjoyment of the film by listing spoilers here in my blog (OK, OK, I lied, HUGE spoiler here - Gandalf is not really dead! He returns as Gandalf the White!), but we both enjoyed the movie immensely. The fact is, we have watched EVERY single STAR WARS movie in the theater together since the summer between seventh and eighth grade, when we watched A NEW HOPE together as (barely) teenage sweethearts.
So all in all, it's been a nice week, despite the fact that I am standing on the brink of encroaching senility, catastrophic organ failure, and the explosive ear hair growth that is the curse of us old geezers everywhere. I guess getting older and more married than ever before is not that bad - still, I kind of like the idea of letting anniversaries take the place of birthdays. Next year I will celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of my twenty-fifth birthday right before I celebrate my thirty-fourth wedding anniversary. Then let's see her call me "old" for three weeks straight!!!
PS: Did I mention this month is expensive? You can help out your favorite penniless author avoid the doghouse for not buying his wife a birthday gift AND the humiliation of eating cat food for the rest of January by clicking this link and purchasing one of my marvelous novels. They are guaranteed to entertain and are absolutely, one hundred per cent gluten free!!!