I turned 66 Tuesday.
That modest language seems appropriate rather than exuberant verbs like celebrated. And yet, nothing about birthday 66 seemed unimportant or trivial.
For the last several years I have been complacent about birthdays. “It’s just another day, ” was my frequent refrain. I said that once Tuesday and it felt false, even phony. I regretted it the instant it escaped my mouth because it wasn’t true.
This birthday was a big deal but not for its opportunity to drink, party and make a special fool of myself as I did many more times than I should have on my life’s journey. This birthday made a special mark on me because gratitude took its appropriate place after last year’s death of my wife Jean.
As I told several well-wishers Tuesday, the point now is to keep having more birthdays. The importance of appreciating the gift of life becomes far clearer as I enter what I hope are the last 20 years of my life. As one birthday greeter said, “Happy birthday, Tim. Every year is a gift.” That is so true and such a vital thing to remember. I wish it was a perspective I could say I have had all my life, but I’d be a liar. It has taken age, wisdom and a little fear of death to help me realize that sense of gift.
It is definitely true, though, that the realization of life as a gift has been informed and given urgency by Jean’s death. Every time I said “the key is to keep having them,” I thought of Jean and the fact that she will never have another. I didn’t tear up every time I said that, but I do think it has strengthened my resolve to live my life more fully and with more gratitude.
Wednesday morning a woman who desperately wanted a copy of my book offered to pay for it. She can’t afford it and I can, so giving her the copy with a warm inscription was really pretty small potatoes when it comes to kind acts. But, the joy on the woman’s face and her enthusiastic and genuine promise to “start reading it right away,” made my day. It also reminded me that brightening people’s lives and doing kind acts every day is a crucial way to recognize the blessing and gift of each day we draw breath.
Tim J McGuire is the author of “Some People Even Take Them Home” A Disabled Dad, A Down Syndrome Son and Our Journey To Acceptance