40. The big four oh. Yet another click of the ol’ odometer to a zero.
If it’s not the summit of the hill, then it’s the vista from which you can see that you’re over it and on your way down.
It’s also the age I turn today.
Emotionally, it won’t have a whole lot of impact. For some reason, starting about ten years ago, I’ve been anticipating my next age just a few weeks after each birthday. In my mind, and when people catch me by surprise with the question, I’ve been calling myself forty for several months already.
More significant to me right now is that the 7th of October marks exactly six months since the disaster.
That hurts. Forty doesn’t.
Anyway, happy birthday to me and all that. No big plans.
I had biggish plans but they got canceled. More on that later.
Since I’ve already lost the weight I gained over my vacation I may decide to treat myself to a nice dinner and a movie before heading off to work. Or I’ll go to karate and then go on a run before heading off to work. The point is, now that I’m much closer to being a coot (my true life ambition is to wind up a coot. I’ll settle for codger) than I am to being a toddler, taking a night off of work for my birthday just isn’t that much of a priority.
Sitting here thinking about it, though, I realize that I don’t actually recall any of my birthdays, save one. I remember some things that were birthday traditions when I grew up. My special birthday meals with my family were build our own submarine sammiches with big loaves of Italian bread and a wide variety of deli meats and cheeses. Cherry pie for dessert.
In my adulthood, my birthday represented mostly a guaranteed sex day with more leeway for selfishness on my part than usual. OK, not having that is gonna suck, too. Won’t lie there.
There’s only one birthday celebration I remember specifically during my adulthood and I already told that story. From my childhood, I also only remember one in any sort of detail.
I had a friend over. Maybe two, which would have made it a blowout event as far as birthday parties go in my life. We ate of the ceremonial hoagies and pie and then the others laid their tributes before me, quivering in anticipation of my glee or trembling in fear of my wrath. Or, you know, I opened my presents. I got three or four things, of which the only one I remember was the AD&D manual Unearthed Arcana, which I mostly remember as being the one that explained the Cavalier player class and, thus, reduced some of my confusion regarding the Dungeons and Dragons Saturday morning cartoon.
Since my gifts were opened and my belly was full, my parents told me it was time to put my stuff in my room and we’d move on to games or watching a movie or whatever. So I gathered up my loot, headed off down the hallway, and opened the door to my bedroom, only to be confronted by the most beautiful sight of my young life.
It was a twelve speed road bike. The same one that would later protect me from bullies and road rash. Shiny and fresh and new and leaning jauntily on its kickstand in the middle of my bedroom. I actually fell back in surprise and may have shrieked with joy over it, as I had so desperately wanted a real bike to replace the one I had been so excited to get a few years earlier (before I found out that banana seats and rainbow colors are decidedly uncool on a boy’s bike). It was the best thing ever.
Then I found out how my parents had gotten it and discovered a weird bit of my psyche in the process.
My mother (remember: this is not Fiona) worked as a loan officer at a bank at the time. That year, they had some sort of incentive program that, rather than give out actual monetary bonuses, instead gave points that the bank employees would be able to spend out of a catalog. Very similar to the kind of incentive programs that my schools offered for kids selling enough candy bars or snow globes or whatever other fundraising crap we were supposed to sell door to door. She had earned enough to get a bike for me and give it to me on by birthday. Cool, right?
Not to my young mind. I don’t know which birthday this was but I do know I was at least in sixth grade and may have been in eighth grade. Certainly too old to burst into tears and suffer a meltdown on finding out that my mother had spent her incentive points on me.
Seriously. I freaked the fuck out and begged her to take the bike back if she could and get something for herself. Or, at least, keep the bike for herself. I was completely inconsolable and filled with anxiety over this show of kindness to me until my mother showed me all of the other things she had gotten for herself and Robert out of a catalog and convinced me that she got the bike just to use up her leftover points after thinking of herself first.
That’s just how I am. It’s a part of my character that, frankly, I would change if I could. I don’t deal well with people showing me certain forms of generosity. Unless it’s Mike, anyway. Mike and I have a special deal going on that goes way back to when we used to have paper routes and other odd jobs growing up. We called it “community money” and whomever happened to have more money at a certain moment when we were going to the mall or the arcade or to a movie would provide for the other and we didn’t keep an accounting or anything like that. That has translated to me, in my adult life, being able to accept graciously when Mike bestows some sort of largess on me.
Anyone else showing me kindness, especially kindness that puts them out in any way, fills me with anxiety. James, for instance, let me couch surf while I was on vacation and I was so busy trying to make myself unobtrusive the whole time that I wound up offending James’s wife and mother by trying so hard to be unnoticeable and out of the way that I came off as aloof instead. I hate owing people anything and I hate even more being unable to repay anything and this makes me clumsy in showing gratitude.
It also contributed to a decade long rift between myself and Robert when he provided me with a substantial loan at a time when I needed it and I turned into a right snot while paying him back and the shame over both my behavior and owing money to him kept me from visiting him and my mother more than once every couple of months even when we were living in the same city.
Anyway, I recognize that it’s ridiculous and hurtful when I see the trait in others. It’s another of the things I need to work on.
So, what I’m saying is, if people want to send me cash and gifts to help me practice, I promise I will try to accept them with grace and aplomb.