Posts Tagged ‘Birthdays’

Aging Like Fine Wine

I see it. There, on the horizon. Another birthday approaching in a couple of days.

God rest your soul, B.B.King, but this septuagenarian won’t need to play your upbeat Happy Birthday Blues song to lift my spirits. I’m good. My plan for B-Day is to express my gratitude to God for the blessing of seeing another birthday and then I’ll take a moment to reflect on my birthday’s past.

I’ve had some ho-hum birthdays when I did nothing to acknowledge the occasion except maybe draw a smiley face on my daily flip calendar and then turn the page. I also had some memorable birthdays like when my beau at the time treated me to a concert, dinner, or some other memorable event. (Eugene, I don’t know if you are reading this or if you are even aware that I have an online journal, but if you are, I want you to know that I still remember when you took me to a small supper club. Unbeknownst to me at the time, you slipped the waitress a note to give to the club host. The host then announced from the stage that it was my birthday and pointed to our table. The clubgoers turned toward us and sang Happy Birthday to me. It was a beautiful gesture, and I don’t know why I felt embarrassed, but I did. I just wanted to dissolve into a heap of chocolate in my chair faster than the ice melting in our drinks. But as you see, your thoughtfulness left a lasting impression because I still remember that unforgettable birthday evening.)

My earliest memorable birthday was my 16th. That was the only time I ever had a birthday party. It wasn’t a budget-busting gala like some contemporary parents provide for their 16-year-old daughters. Mine was a small event. I remember the round cake bought from Posin’s Bakery. It had “Happy Birthday Sweet 16” written on top in pink and yellow icing, encircled by 16 candles.

Along with the cake, we enjoyed Neapolitan ice cream, potato chips, and a few other party snacks.  The several friends who I invited, my siblings, and I celebrated the event in the basement of our family home, while my parents courteously remained upstairs.

We danced beneath pre-strung crepe decorations to the stack of 45 RPMs, which I had prearranged next to my dad’s record player. The lineup included many of my favorite tunes:  How Sweet It Is by Marvin Gaye; Bettye Everett & Jerry Butler ‘s Let It Be Me; My Guy by Mary Wells; Baby Love by the Supremes; and You’ve Lost that Lovin Feelin by the blue-eyed soul duo, The Righteous Brothers. That was when music was music and not just a compilation of noise, grunts, and offensive language.

I, like other Boomers, grew up in The Vietnam War era when gas cost 30 cents per gallon, a loaf of bread was 21 cents, and a US Postage Stamp, 5 cents. The Beatles were taking the world and America by storm. I owned at least two of their singles; A Hard Days Night and She Loves You (yeah, yeah, yeah).

A talented young boxer by the name of Cassius Clay (he later changed his name to Muhammed Ali) won the boxing world heavyweight championship from Sonny Liston. The Civil Rights Act was signed into law, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr received the Nobel Peace Prize, but that didn’t stop creative artists like The Last Poets and Gil Scott Heron from rapping politically charged lyrics about revolution.

Most pertinent to this lifelong Washingtonian was when the District of Columbia residents gained the right to vote in a presidential election for the first time. I remember that my dad was so proud to cast his first ballot. I don’t think he ever missed voting during a single election after that.

So many birthdays, so much history.

Although listening to music was one of my favorite pastimes then (and it still is), when I could scrape together enough money, I enjoyed attending shows at The Howard Theater, usually with my best friend, Cookie. She and I laughed ourselves silly while witnessing the antics of rising star comedians like Flip Wilson, Moms Mabley, and Richard Pryor. Back then, theater seats were available on a first-come basis. Cookie and I would rush to get to the Howard an hour before the box office opened so that we would be the first patrons standing in line to buy tickets. After purchasing them, we would race to the front of the auditorium and grab seats on the front row. When the screening of the movie previews and a serial film was over it was showtime. We would scream and act-a-fool (as the old folks would say it) during live performances by musical entertainers like Chuck Jackson, The Temptations, The Four Tops, The Supremes, The Marvelettes and so many others.

Sometimes I spent Saturday afternoons at the Sylvan Theater. If I wasn’t with Cookie, I went along with my parents and siblings. We enjoyed films like Imitation of Life, Sounder, and A Fistful of Dollars. By the time Blaxploitation films emerged, I was a bonafide movieholic and going to other movie houses in the city. I squirmed through films like Melvin Van Peebles’s Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song and cried at the end of Cooley High. (The latter remains one of my favorite films.)

So many birthdays. So many memories.

I’ve aged like fine wine. Over the years, the mature me has expanded my interests to include social activism and politics. Before writing these memories, I couldn’t resist digging up some birthday trivial and I found this. According to the MyBirthdayNinja site, in my previous life (for those who believe in such), I was a publisher and scribbler of ancient inscriptions. (Isn’t that interesting?)

No, you won’t hear me singing any birthday blues, because I see every birthday as a journey. Another landmark. I will treasure every year and enjoy every mile because on each B-Day that I am blessed to be above ground; I will be older than yesterday, but younger than tomorrow.


It’s My Birthday, Shh

If I live, I’ll have another birthday in two weeks. I’ve been trying to downplay it, but I might as well broadcast it because no matter how I try (every year) to ignore the approaching event, someone always reminds me. Just the other day a good friend asked, “Don’t you have a birthday coming up next month?” I know her well enough to know that immediately after I mumbled, “Uh-huh,” and tried to change the subject, and she asked, “What day?” she made a mental note to buy me a card. Oh, snap!

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the greetings and well-wishes, because I do. It’s just that my birthdays are no big deal to me anymore. Unlike milestone birthdays – turning Sweet 16 or reaching legal adulthood, the other B-days are, well, just birthdays. I suppose that nonchalance comes with age. Don’t get me wrong; I know that accumulating years is, as the saying goes – better than the alternative.

Although growing older doesn’t bother me, I am concerned about the undesirable things that most seniors resent like age-related challenges. The body changes:  physical and mental. The frequent aches and pains, and the multiple medications some must take daily. According to WebMD, “Adults over age 65 buy 30 percent of all prescription drugs and 40 percent of all over-the-counter drugs.” I was not surprised to learn that many seniors take five or more medications a day. No wonder on the few occasions when I go to a doctor one of the first questions the nurse asks is “What medications are you on?” It is not my imagination that when I say, “None,” I sometimes see her arch an eyebrow before she scribbles her notes on a page attached to a clipboard or keys them into the computer.

My philosophy is, if you are a senior and free of medical challenges or even if you are dealing with them, there are two essentials for aging with strength and grace:  (1) maintain a positive attitude and (2) keep a sense of humor.

So many people my age (and many who are younger) are taking age-related medications for high blood pressure, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis. You name it.

Let me knock on wood, my head will do, as I say that I am (currently) not dealing with any of those ailments. I know that doesn’t mean that it can’t happen. Life is a day-to-day adventure. One day you could be perfectly healthy. You jump out of bed, cartwheel to the bathroom, hop into your workout clothes and hit the ground running. The next day you could be flat on your back KO’d by the flu or some other sudden illness, a heart attack, a stroke, or a terminal disease.

Life is like that. We may think that we are in total control, but none of us are. Control is quixotic as life is transitional. The only guarantee we have is that eventually, we all die. Better to enjoy each moment while we can. If life is blissful or relatively comfortable, then take it for what it is. If we perceive it to be miserable, then pray that it gets better. Succumbing to negativity only makes a bad situation worse.

As an aside let me share that in June 2014, I spent the last week, day, and final seconds with my mother at her home before she died of cancer. There are numerous things about that week and our time together that are resolute in my mind. Braiding her hair while she was propped up on the borrowed hospital bed provided by the hospice organization. The hissing noise made by the oxygen concentrator feeding her breath. Her smile and slight nods as I read Maya Angelo’s poems to her. But what stands out prominently is that during those weeks and days before she died, on the day before my sister’s birthday and four months before her 87th, mom seemed unafraid and at peace.

Before I digress further, let me get back on track about birthdays and aging and offer some tips to my cohorts.

Some age-related annoyances like occasional memory lapses or waning eyesight can be a pain. It is useful to stick post-it-notes wherever needed around the home as memory joggers. Store your eyeglasses in the same place so you can readily find them to read the notes. And don’t pitch a hissy fit if you can’t open a child-proof product, call a neighbor’s child and ask him or her to come over and open it.

Although, unlike numerous people my age (and many who are younger than I), I am not on any medications; don’t take that to mean that I don’t get occasional age-related discomfort. I do. Some mornings, especially after I have over-exerted myself while working out the day before, I wake up feeling like I rolled out of bed during the night, body slammed myself to the floor and then sleep-climbed back into the sack.

Ask me to what do I attribute my fair-to-middling health, and I’ll say “God and good genes” in that order. A scientist might say that it is the half-dozen vitamins and supplements that I take daily combined with regular exercise. And eating habits. Most days, I eat healthily. I rarely eat red meat. But I admit I am a magnet for sugary snacks. I easily avoid salt. Over the years I’ve developed a low tolerance for it. And I don’t smoke, drink or do drugs. Can I get a witness? (Who said caffeinated coffee is a drug?)

I won’t tell you and all the world how old I will be next month. If you already know, then you know. But if you don’t know, let’s play a guessing game. I will give you some clues. In the year I was born, Harry S. Truman was reelected U.S. President; Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in India, and if I were a canine, I would be 335 dog years old. Now, go figure. But shh, keep it quiet.


Mother’s (Birth) Day and other Special Occasions

Had my mother lived she would have turned 91 years old on her forthcoming birthday, October 22nd. Instead, she slipped into eternity early on a warm summer morning four years ago.

I’ve seen where many people wish Happy Birthday, Happy Anniversary or post other heartfelt greetings to their deceased loved ones on social media; and if that works for them, that’s fine. But I can’t help but wonder – why?

When my mother’s birthday arrives in three weeks, I won’t wish her Happy Birthday on Facebook nor will I post it in any other public place. Because if the Bible is to be believed – that the dead know nothing (Ecclesiastes 9:5) – then mother won’t know that I wish her a Happy Birthday anyway. And as much as she expressed her disdain for social media when she was alive – by the off-chance that there is Facebook in the hereafter, she surely would have nothing to do with it.

My mother’s chosen religion forbids their members from acknowledging birthdays and other so-called pagan holidays; so when she was alive wishing her happiness on such an occasion often led to a repetitive interchange between us.

Mother would say, “You know I don’t celebrate (whatever the holiday in question).” And I would protest, “But I do.”  The conversation usually ended there, until the next time. Yet, to my pleasure, she never refused to accept the cards or gifts that I gave her on those days. And she always (perhaps begrudgingly, although she didn’t show it) acknowledged the gesture with a polite, “Thank you.”

I regretted the fact that mother would not allow me to take her out to dinner, to a stage play, or someplace special on her birthday, but it bothered me more on Mother’s Day. Even before I became a mother, I relished Mother’s Day and considered the day to be a special occasion for honoring and showing reverence to all mothers and especially good mothers like mine.

Since my siblings and I were adults when mother decided to convert her faith, I have wonderful memories to cherish of earlier times of family get-togethers at my parent’s home on holidays like the Fourth of July (Can you say crab fest?), Thanksgiving, and Christmas. And for a few years, even after my siblings and I married and had families of our own, we’d all bring our kids to the grandparents home on festive occasions. Unfortunately, those happy get-togethers dwindled and eventually stopped; too soon.

In three weeks when mother’s birthday arrives, I won’t publicize it on social media. I will acknowledge it privately. And before the day is over, I know I will smile with tear-filled eyes as I remember a recurring dialog that she and I shared many times in the years before she died.

“You know I don’t celebrate birthdays.”

“But I do.”