I am fifty-six today.
I had just been getting used to the idea of ‘being in my fifties.’ Now, I must face the fact that I am entering the second half of my fifth decade. I would say that this is sobering; but it’s not. I just don’t grasp it.
Fifty-six years ago today, my father’s tug boat was stopped at the Winfried Locks on the Kanawha river so someone in the control tower could yell down to inform him that I had arrived into the world. (He had taken the precious week off to welcome me but I had not cooperated with his schedule.)
My mother had something else on her mind, no doubt. My older brother had died a few days after his birth. I was number two. She was concerned that I survive and thrive, which I did and have.
The world of Southern West Virginia in those years immediately after the Second World War is gone now. It’s hard to imagine: no color TV – very few televisions at all, as a matter of fact. No FM radio. No computers. Jet aircraft was so new that few private citizens had ever been in one. There were no interstate highways. No cell phones.
Butter was butter, cheese was cheese and ice cream was frozen cream. Our food did not contain amino-biocrapious-pourizine-poopicancercausinate. The tomatoes were misshapen ugly things from the backyard; they tasted wonderful instead of being beautiful and perfectly round globes that taste like Styrofoam.
Decades, presidential administrations and world crisis have come and gone...
Practicing getting under the school so we wouldn’t die when the atomic bomb went off really didn’t prepare me for any real emergency. The Beetles didn’t usher in the antichrist. Mussolini turned out not to be the antichrist either, nor Pope Paul IX, nor Kissinger, nor Anwar Sadat, Pope John Paul, Gorbachev, John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Edward Kennedy, or any other Kennedy so far.
The conspiracy theories that scared the beejees out of us all have all proven to be malignant myths that wasted our time and spent precious energy. The things that have really changed the world snuck up on us while we were preoccupied with trivia.
I don’t really miss President Eisenhower, Nikita Kruschev, Perry Como, or Ed Sullivan. I don’t care if I ever see another black and white western, a Tide commercial or play with a hula hoop. I don’t want most of that world back. I just miss my grandparents, old pastors, listening to the Grand Old Opry with my grandpa and uncles, and Christmas Eve with all my cousins.
The great issues of today will come and go. They do not constitute the essence of life. What matters the most wears stocking feet and sneaks silently through the moments and then sneaks away– time, love and the meaning of life.
As it happens, those were the three birthday presents I received from the world as I got out of bed this morning. I still have some time, even if it’s just today. I have more love than anyone will ever deserve. And my moments, thoughts and actions have meaning – fifty-six years of it.