I have now endured two birthdays I wasn't especially happy to see arrive.
The first was in March 1983, when I turned 30. I remember standing in the kitchen at 11:55 the night before my birthday, watching the clock tick away the last five minutes of my 20s.
I didn't want to leave my 20s because those fun-filled years represented a high point of my young adult life. Free and on my own, I could do anything or go anywhere I wanted. I was also still young enough to feel like a kid, yet old enough to know better.
I dreaded turning 30 because, in my eyes, 30 always represented a major turning point in life. Upon reaching 30, one is expected to act like an adult with no goofing off allowed — or so I assumed. Apparently I wasn't ready to go there. But when the clock in the kitchen struck midnight, I had no choice. It was Welcome to Middle Age, like it or not.
Up until that point, 30 was the roughest birthday I had faced. All other birthdays have been a breeze — until last weekend, that is, when I turned 60.
Once again I found myself standing in the kitchen at 11:55 p.m. with a scowl on my face. I glumly watched the clock tick off the last five minutes of my 50s, not wanting to let go.
This is because, in my eyes, 60 always represented the gateway to senior citizenship. Obviously, I wasn't ready to go there, either.
In my inexperienced youth, I always felt a person officially became an Old Fogey at 60. Of course, now that I've climbed to the summit of the 60-year-old mountain and looked around for a few days, I've come to the conclusion that Old Fogeyness can't possibly start until 70. I suspect 10 years from now I will probably want to reexamine this issue and will doubtlessly decide one doesn't officially become an Old Fogey until 80. Maybe 90.
Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed my 60th birthday. It was especially fun to get a surprise visit by a half-dozen wonderful relatives from Northern Illinois who came marching down the sidewalk singing while accompanied by my brother, Matt, playing his tuba. They gleefully presented me with my very own walker, colorfully decorated for the occasion.
Despite the late-night partying that followed, there was still something melancholy about turning 60. Maybe it has something to do with the realization that life is so fleeting. The years — and the decades — seem to roll by in a flash. And no one can do a darned thing about it.
So there I stood, the night before my birthday, watching the minute hand creep forward until it was pointing straight up. I glanced over to the digital clock on the stove. It said the time was only 11:59.
I told myself: "I'm still in my 50s! I'm still in my 50s!"
Then a few seconds later, the digital numbers switched to 12:00.
The party was over. The decorated walker stood in the corner, taunting me in silence.
I may have to keep that walker. At this pace, I'll need something to lean on when my next unpleasant birthday comes along 30 years from now.
I can only imagine I'll be standing in the kitchen watching the last five minutes of my 80s tick away, and I'll be thinking to myself: "Man, that clock is sure getting old."