What a difference a year makes. One year ago, on March 14th, my wife and I put our three month old daughter into a stroller and walked over to Café Selmarie for a late breakfast. It was 80 degrees and sunny. I had shorts on. I felt guilty for not being at the office; so I had a screwdriver and that guilt quickly melted away.
I did not go to the office last Thursday, March 14th. I started a little tradition where I take my birthday off- and now that the tradition is in its second year and my guilt has melted away. I found myself writing this post when the call came through to meet my friend at the United Center to watch my alma mater, University of Illinois, beat Minnesota on a last second buzzer beater. From watching the Big Ten tourney, my day took me back home and then to Joe’s Stone Crab with Amy for an excellent steak dinner.
Although the weather was a whole lot different from 2012, there are two other reasons why this one little year has made a big difference: the numbers FOUR and ZERO. Consecutively.
So last week, I was getting cards that say “Life Begins at 40!” Any 25 year old will tell you that’s bullshit. I vaguely remember 25. I felt so alive back then that my recollection of those years is only vague.
“40 is the new 30!” That’s what old people trying to get into skinny jeans say.
So what does 40 mean? It means I’m one year closer to needing weekly colonoscopies, I think.
Since the calendar turned into 2013, I’ve struggled with being “40.” I DO feel older.
Wednesday night, as I was enjoying the last night in my thirties with some scotch and Cheese-Its while watching an old Battlestar Galactica, I was reading a Chicago magazine interview with Rahm Emaunel’s brother, Ezekiel. He was asked: “If you had another crack at your life up to now, would you do anything differently?” Even in all my exaggerated woe, it was easy for me to answer “no.” If anything over the last forty years happened differently, I would not have the people around me that I do.
Amy and I considered going away to celebrate my birthday. Then she told me some dear friends were planning on coming to town to celebrate. My good friend Andy, whose family had always treated me like a son or brother, and his wife Jennifer were coming to town. The thing about my buddy’s wife is that even her family treats me like a son or brother. I get phone calls from her sister and brother-in-law.
Our good fortune is that Andy and Jen are just the tip of the iceberg. There are too many people to list who have been gracious enough to make me a part of their extended families. Names like Guapo, MC Gusto, Lolly and our New York DJ to name a very few. We have the psychologist who asks me too many questions, always responding with “that’s interesting.” Thinking about them, I stopped feeling old and started feeling blessed– to use a word that can be overused that I don’t use enough.
I’m fortunate to have my family. From my immediate family-- my mother, father and sister Brittany-- who have been my rock for forty years through illness and health while providing excellent foundation and examples; my wife’s family who have always treated me as one of their clan. Her family has more faith in me than I do (and think about what a gift that is– to have in-laws, grandfathers-in-law, grandmothers-in-law, brother & sister-in-law, uncles, an aunt-in law and cousins who actually appreciate, love and respect the person their child married).
And then the three people I love the most– Amy and my two children. I have no words to explain my love for them. Amy is my best coach, pushing me to do better, while extending a hand and helping me off the floor when I fall. And although my children are the reason why I feel 40, they are also the two single best things to ever happen to me.
So as Thursday continued, my feeling “old” abated and I started feeling fortunate and privileged for the last 40 years, for all the people who have crossed my path, to the people who have walked the path with me. Fortunate for my very old, long-time friends, like Trisha and Steve, who although I don’t see or talk to them often, shared those innocent days growing up when the only rule was to come in when the street lights went on. As we grew up together and rules became more complex, the days became less innocent. Fortunate for bonds with friends from college, who continue to amaze me with their accomplishments– especially considering the rag-tag bunch we were as little as ten years ago.
Do I wish I could go back to the days on 3650 North Fremont– our first place out of college (while I was in law school)? Playing stick ball across the street with stress balls; playing poker and drinking outside on beautiful summer days when police would walk by, smile and laugh as they made certain we were on private property rather than the sidewalk. Stumbling the block to and from Wrigley Field, seeing our guy Danny who got us into the park (for a small fee) and then the usher who would hold fourth row right field bleacher seats for us until ten minutes before first pitch. Do I miss sitting in that living room with friends hearing the crowd three seconds before seeing the Sosa homerun on television? Or watching “the Shooter” Rod Beck get himself in another ninth inning jam before getting the save?
The fortunate thing about being FORTY are all those great memories. From riding down my street on a Big Wheel to seeing the birth of my children. From 4th grade math to Constitutional Law. All those steps through this life and no regrets. My only wish? That my grandfather, who died when I was seven, had walked my path a little longer. I hope he’s proud of the man I am.
So here’s to being firmly entrenched in middle age and being OK with it (maybe)!
As Papa Bernie says: L’Chaim!
Filed under: Change of Pace