Next Wednesday, I reach another birthday. I am not superstitious about these things and I know that age is just a number that we assign to ourselves. I suppose what makes this upcoming birthday different is that as I prepare to turn 52 years old, I am realizing that there is more life behind me than ahead of me. Where has all this time gone?
I can clearly recall mornings from my childhood. There seems to be a memory for each season. I can smell the grass in the summertime, I can feel the silent cold of the snow that I hoped would keep me from going to school. The memories are so intense I can almost reach out and touch them.
I remember Mom and Dad always teaching me to think for myself and to question everything. I thank them for that each and every day. I remember the talks around the dinner table that lasted for hours. I remember the difficulties Mom had with her family since she had been adopted as a young girl. Her natural siblings found her later in life. I remember how Mom struggled to put together a family that she never knew. I remember Dad telling me that it was the three of us against the world.
I remember our town getting a McDonald’s and thinking that we had finally reached the big time. I remember cable tv when it was something that we couldn’t afford, but somehow we never missed.
I remember playing 2nd base and center field. I can still hear the “ping” of the aluminum bat as I would race around to 2nd base after hitting a double into the right-center field gap. I remember playing right field on e game and backing up an errant throw to first base. I unloaded a bullet to 3rd base that had the runner out by 10 feet.
I remember listening to songs for the first time. These are the most relevant memories for me. The music never changes. The memories the music evokes varies from time to time, but always in a good way.
I remember the first kiss, I remember the first date, I remember the first rejection. I remember the first heartbreak that I swore I would never recover from. Silly me, life would prove that was just a warmup for later. I remember playing in a band, I remember being in the marching band, I remember friends that have vanished into the mists of time. I remember Saturday morning cartoons that weren’t designed sold to sell toys. I remember the Road Runner and Wiley Coyote on a 13-inch screen.
I remember elementary school where it seemed I was always being held back because I was taught so much at home. I was taught to be inquisitive and to never stop learning. I remember thinking that so many kids there we’re just going through the motions and not caring about anything.
I remember middle school, I remember the school dances. I remember the feeling that I had made some cosmic and karmic advancement from elementary school. I remember finally being allowed to write what I wanted in English class to let my creative side out.
I remember high school. I remember the nerves when I took my driving test since my Dad had suffered a stroke and was unable to be there with me. I remember parties that I wasn’t supposed to go to, so naturally I went anyway. I remember causing trouble, or what passed as trouble in a small town. I remember school trips with the marching band. I remember the feeling that I was invincible just like everyone else and that life was nothing but roses (watch out for those thorns). I remember dates, I remember long quiet evenings just talking about getting the hell out of our hometown. I remember my Dad passing away when I was 17 and feeling that a void had been created that would never be filled. I remember graduation. It felt like parole had been granted.
I remember the year before I went away to college. I remember watching so many of my friends dutifully lock themselves into our hometown. I remember their expressions that said they had no choice, that they had not prepared to do anything else. They attempted to comfort themselves with the belief that thus was the best that they could do. I remember the revelation that I was indeed different. I remember knowing that I could not just melt into the town to never surface again as an individual.
I remember college. I remember the new faces and the new environment. I remember the tears in my Mom’s eyes as she drove away after making sure that I was settled into the dorm my first year. I remember making new friends. I remember being challenged intellectually for what seemed the first time in my life. I remember the college marking band and the football and basketball games that I was able to attend because I was with the band. I remember the Challenger explosion as it happened on CNN in the Student Center. I remember the sense of awe as history unfolded in its terrible glory and older people talked about the JFK assassination, although that happened before I was born. I remember that it taught me that the world goes on regardless of tragedy, and the only real choice we have is to keep moving forward as well.
I remember when I joined the Navy after college because I wanted to get into a job field that wasn’t open to anyone without military training. I remember the pride my Mom had when she saw me in uniform. I remember seeing parts of the world that the old friends in my hometown could only dream about. I remember good times and bad from the Navy. I remember nearly being married twice (luckily I never got there).
I remember meeting a friend, Donald Beasley, who would remain a close part of my life. I remember meeting his wife and family years later and feeling like I belonged. We still visit them even though Don was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2014.
I remember leaving the Navy when my Mom’s health failed her at last. I remember finally finding my soulmate in Hal (person, not the cat) right as I left the Navy. I remember Mom treating Hal as part of our family. I remember us both being there as Mom let our her last breath. I remember saying goodbye to her.
I remember the struggles after leaving the Navy. I remember how Hal and I have always managed to find a way to get through things together. I remember various jobs, some good, some bad until I landed the right job that I have held for 10 years. I remember the cats that we have had, UK, Muffin, Spartacus, Maxwell, Stevie Nicks, and now Hal (cat).
I remember all of the cars I have had, the AMC Pacer (don’t laugh), the late 70s Mustang (yuck), the Nissan Sentra hatchback, the Chevy Nova (blah), the Ford Explorer, the Honda Civic EX, the Jeep Cherokee, the Nissan Sentra (nothing but trash), and finally the 2002 Beetle (love it).
I remember how I feel at this moment. I wonder where have the years gone?