How Did I Get So Old?

Updated: Sep 20, 2018

I know people get old. I just never thought it would happen to me.


Tomorrow, I will be celebrating my 53rd birthday. I know, you're all shocked that I'm that old. But it's true. To be honest, it's hard for me to believe it myself.


After I turned fifty, I would often lie in bed at night and think, I'm fifty years old! How is that possible? In my mind, I still think of myself as twenty-five ... maybe twenty-six. But fifty? Not possible. It sneaks up on you. My childhood seems like it was a million years ago, but it still feels like my fifties snuck up. Maybe I should have been paying more attention.


Around this time of year, I can't help but think about my mom. For starters, our birthdays are very close. She was born on St. Patty's Day. Not a drop of Irish blood in her, but she married a guy who was half Irish. That must count for something.


In our family, we tend to combine our birthday celebrations. Much the way Washington and Lincoln's birthdays were combined to create Presidents Day––or perhaps more aptly, the way the professor and Mary Ann were referred to as "and the rest" for the entire first season of the show––we decided at some point that celebrating every birthday individually was just too much work.


I was fortunate enough to share my birthday celebration with my mom; or unfortunate, depending how you look at it. Your birthday tends to be overshadowed if you combine it with the matriarch of the family. But I was more than happy to share the limelight.


There's another reason I think about her every time the thirteenth of March draws nearer. She was my mom. She was the one responsible for all of this. There's always one person with whom you share your birthday.


I like to go visit her grave on my birthday if it's possible. I plan to visit her again this year. I can reflect upon the fact that exactly fifty-three years ago she bore me into this world. Her baby. Her last child. She had achieved perfection and no longer needed to bare any more children. That and I sort of ripped her insides out during childbirth. But I'm pretty sure she was done anyway. Five was enough.


When we said goodbye to her in that hospital room, I was transported back in time. In an instant, I was five years old, back from a long hard day of Kindergarten. My mom had a delicious grilled-cheese sandwich waiting for me.


Then I was ten, and she was comforting me after I had taken a bad spill on the ice.


I was eighteen, and she was waiting up for me to get home, no matter how late.


I was thirty-nine, and she was praising a story I had just finished writing.


I was forty-two, and she was taking photos at my wedding.


And then I was forty-seven, standing in a hospital room, looking down at the person who brought me into this world, knowing that would be the last time I would ever see her. I leaned over, kissed the top of her head and whispered to her: "Thank you."


Birthdays are bittersweet for me. But they're not all bad. My adorable wife always does something special for me. And this year, after I share my moment with my mom, we will go do something fun. I don't know what, but it doesn't matter.


It all goes by so fast. Before you know it, the people you love aren't there anymore. Next week, when I get together with my family, we will only be celebrating one birthday––as we have for the past five years. I no longer share my limelight with anyone. But in my heart, I'll always be sharing my birthday with one other person.


Eventually, the professor and Mary Ann were able to shake the "and the rest" monicker and would get their own separate identities, just as I would eventually get my own birthday. But in my mind, the festivities will always be known as "March Birthdays."

© 2018 John Ethier, all rights reserved.

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