It’s my birthday. Martin Luther King, Jr. and I share the same birthday, though not the same year of birth. My cousin John Honeycutt, four years younger than I, also shares the same birth date. On Jan. 15, I hit the big five-nine. I can no longer deceive myself into thinking that I am still a kid.
In our family, we celebrate birthdays by the month. There are four birthdays in January so, last Sunday, we had a party at my house — pizza, salad, Cokes, cakes, candles, and all the things necessary to celebrate.
I solemnly announced, “I just want you to know that this is my last birthday.”
Concerned, someone later asked me if I was sick — really sick.
No, I shared. I just want to stop being reminded that I am older than I was. As one of the sons put it a few years ago, “Hey Dad, you’re another year closer to seeing Jesus!”
When I hit 40, I was actually excited. Being 40 meant that I was really a grownup and that I didn’t have to compete with the teens anymore. No arm wrestling, if I didn’t want to, no pick-up basketball games that left me exhausted, and no feeling that I didn’t belong in the men’s group at church.
When I turned 50, I was not excited at all. It didn’t help that, a few days before my birthday, I received my AARP card in the mail. Somehow, I went from being a young member of the men’s group to being a member of the American Association of Retired Persons. I was depressed for a week.
It also didn’t help that I was taking classes at a seminary surrounded by men and women who hadn’t even begun their ministry and that some of the instructors were younger than I was!
Since I turned 50, I have had knee surgery, gall bladder surgery, stomach surgery, trifocal glasses, blood pressure medication, another medication I cannot pronounce, and people calling me to see if I am interested in buying cemetery plots.
I take the “silver” vitamins instead of the Fred Flintstone vitamins and go to bed at 9:30 p.m. if I have to get up at 5 in the morning. Sometimes, I think about going to bed at 9:30 even when I don’t have to get up early. When I rough-house with the young grandsons, invariably someone will say, “Boys, now don’t hurt Papa!” Sigh.
So, do I want to turn 60 next year? Well, yes, because the alternative is pretty permanent. But do I look forward to even more unexpected changes? I do not.
However, I realize that I may have to examine my attitude. I spoke to a lady a few weeks back who is about my age and she said, “I can’t wait until I turn 60.”
“Really,” I inquired, “and why is that?”
“Because, I’m gonna go wild!” she replied with a huge grin.
I’m not sure exactly how she is planning to do that but her enthusiasm was infectious. And I have to admit — most of the people I know who are over 60 seem to be having the time of their lives.
My in-laws both just turned 80 and they travel and entertain extensively, teach in their Baptist church’s Sunday School program, and are planning their 60th wedding anniversary for next summer — a celebration that will be 350 miles from their home. My father-in-law will be found at the gym six days a week and is in much better shape than I am. So, maybe I need to re-think this.
I’ve gone back to the gym, have lost eight pounds in the last two weeks, am watching my calories, and am thinking about doing a 5K race later on — but I will walk it, not run it … not yet anyway.
I still have my AARP card because I get good discounts and I’m seriously thinking about going back to the Fred Flintstone vitamins. I wonder if they make those in “silver?”
So, “Happy birthday to me,” and to MLK, Jr., who would have been 81. And happy birthday to Cousin John up in northeast Tennessee who turns 55. Only one more year to go before I go wild!
[David Epps is the priest and pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctkcec.org.), 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277, between Peachtree City and Newnan. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. He is also the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and is the mission pastor of Christ the King Mission in Champaign, IL. He may be contacted at email@example.com.]