Today is my birthday. Birthdays were never a big deal for me, but they have become more meaningful of late. Each one is now a gift. In some ways, this one is more meaningful than most. One reason is that today begins my eighth decade on this planet, which is a milestone of sorts. Another reason is that my father died shortly after his 70th birthday, and I have always wondered if I would outlive him. It now appears that unless I step in front of a bus in the next three months, I will.
It is hard for me to imagine myself being as old as I thought my father was when he turned 70. However, he had been in poor health for a number of years. He had abused his body by smoking for most of his life and finally succumbed to enphysema. Despite my medical condition, I feel pretty hale and hearty for an old coot of my age.
My dad had the gift of poetry, which alas, he didn't pass down to yours truly. My late brother, Michael, inherited that particular gene. When Dad turned 70, he wrote what would be his last poem. I've thought of it often over the years, so I decided to reproduce it here:
It isn't the Biblical span that bothers me so;
God knows the pillow would soothe my tired head
As much if I knew I was slated as next to go.
No! It's the hundred little knacks that have fled
One by one, so I barely noticed them going.
'Til like a thunderclap I suddenly became aware,
And I wanted to weep at the sudden, certain knowing
That I'd lost many skills that once I had to spare--
The thickened voice; the shortened reading arms;
Attention's briefened span; the lung's quick gasp
And trembling legs at stairs; the hard decision's qualms;
And (God forgive my plaint) the slackened mental grasp.
It's not that I want to be young again at all;
It's just that I wish I hadn't so far to fall.
Thankfully, I don't feel the same way Dad did at my age. Yes, it is somewhat frustrating to have lost some of the skills "that once I had to spare". I have to learn to temper my expectations of myself and not scamper about on ladders with chain saws, for example. Otherwise, I don't feel my age, and it's hard to believe that I am now a septuagenarian.
On this day, I don't feel that I had "so far to fall" as did my father. Despite my MM, I am optimistic for the future and I'm looking forward to celebrating this December 2 anniversary many more times.