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Monday, December 15, 2014

Today I turn the age my father was when he died

Today I turn the same age that my father was when he died. I was ten years old at the time and everyone said “he was so young.”

It doesn’t feel so young today. Yet, at the time, he was so young to die with five kids and a traumatized widow. It was a defining moment for me. More so than I realized at the time and I know so because the pain can still screech across my heart like a fork on glass. We were all fragile. We were all so young.

We’re not so young anymore. Too young to die, I like to think. Everyone has defining moments. It’s in our eyes or in the eyes of a stranger waiting for a bus or in all the other eyes in our lives—our mortality. We wear our defining moments front and center for all the world to misunderstand. Or not.
Since my father died, I’ve outlived a number of people. People I have loved have died as well as people who, in my opinion, survived long past their “use by” date. There is no detectable rhyme or reasoning. Out-aging my father seemed unrealistic. I’m too young, it feels odd.

Two days ago, I buried Arnie, my beloved cockatiel of 26 years (my longest relationship). There is no reason in the world that I would have ever let that bird go. There is no rhyme to it either, but there is a little poetry. The daily love and care that I gave and received healed me to a large degree. It was a healing that gave me many new defining moments.

"Visual phone calls” were first described, sometime in the 1980s, as a “thing of the future.” Possible, I thought, but unrealistic to happen in my lifetime. Here we are with camera phones and skype-type services and we even have cameras that go up our butts. This is my future.

With more time than my dad had, more time than some who were far wiser, kinder, and more talented than I, here I am, having more time than all of them and I spend it documenting time for someone else. I document for people who I will never meet, who probably haven’t been born yet, I worry what they will think. I worry if they will know the truth, a truth without conditions. I worry that they care about the time in which we have lived.

With some command of the digital world, I am able to do things that my father could never have fathomed as being necessary, much less possible. As versed as I am in technology, I am still startled when I click the button and it does exactly what it is supposed to do.

There is no rhyme or reason to explain the effects of defining moments.

It is too much effort to examine and evaluate my fate. My fate is not better or worse than anyone else’s fate. At times, I have tested my fate, flaunted it and abused it. I’ll share a little birthday secret with you. Sometimes I feel others judge my fate or they have resented it, and a few other folks have gone so far as to try to manipulate it. But here’s my secret: that too is my fate.

I will not spend this year wondering what anyone else might have done if they had been given more time. That is not my business. What I didn’t understand at ten years old, what I couldn’t see in the defining moments, I still don’t fully understand. Like I said, there is no rhyme or reason. I look for the poetry. I have come to believe in the power of the story and the beauty of words strung together just so.

This is my happy birthday to me.