Saturday, July 22, 2017

Reflections on a birthday

Me and all the young girls
They look bright, but I'm ready to fade

I am seventy-nine years old today, or, as my father would have said, in my eightieth year. A childhood friend with whom I’ve been in close touch all these years regularly writes on my birthday to twit me about being much older—from July 22 until her September 15 birthday, I am a year older. But this year, she added, “Can you believe we’re looking at eighty?” No, the truth is that I can’t. I won’t repeat the mistake I made twenty years ago or so when I told Jamie that I didn’t feel any older than the coeds on the TCU campus. He went into hysterics. But the truth today is that I do feel older—and wiser.

I’ve heard it said that for every individual there is an age at which you permanently place yourself. Mine has always been in my early thirties, when my babies were young and I was, so I thought, happily married. I wouldn’t go back that far any more. In fact, I’m perfectly content with the age I am now, though of course I want to live, in good physical and emotional health, at least well into my nineties. I have to take advantage of the accumulated wisdom of the years, what I’ve learned from heartbreak and, more importantly, what I’ve learned from joy, happiness, and love. I’ve thought a lot about it today and concluded I don’t quite know how to put what I mean in words—a writer at a loss for words. But I think, hope I am a better person—less quick to judge and demand, more compassionate, more understanding.

After all these years, I don’t regret my single state either. Marriage was good—it gave me four terrific children and a taste for kosher food—but it left a sour taste in my mouth. I find myself these days dreaming about a couple of past loves—I wish I could reach out and tell them that I have learned a lot, that I would have reacted differently to our relationships, that I miss them still and they are in corners of my heart. But that isn’t possible, and it’s a slight regret to live with.

I wish I could bring my parents back, for I would be a far better daughter, far more understanding as they aged. And oh! I so wish they could see my wonderful grandchildren. I keep their memory alive with stories and reminiscences…and my mom’s memory lives on in my cooking.

I am a happy, mostly content woman—loved by my family and more friends than I ever deserved, happy with my career choices, which were mostly happenstance but enable me to look back on a professional life well lived and continuing to this day. Lord deliver me from being smug but thank you for blessing me with the riches I have, tangible and intangible.

Tonight, Jordan and Christian welcomed a small crowd to their house—a few neighbors I’m fond of and lots of their friends, who are always glad to see me. That’s another blessing—Jordan has always included me in her circle of friends, and the girls are like daughters to me, the husbands good friends.

Susan and I blow out our candles.
For several years I have shared a birthday with neighbor Susan, who is twenty years and 3 days younger. Tonight, Susan was there to share the fun…and cake.

That's it, folks. The birthday is over. Finis.


6 comments:

Ginnie said...

So well said, Judy! I am 86 this year....and soooo enjoying life. A few hits to my health, but hey, no life is perfect. And I too plan to live a lot longer, so this is just a temporary thing anyway. Sounds like we had a very similar life...marriage, kids ( I beat you there, I had five) divorces (two) and becoming engaged in a wonderful fulfilling life. Happy birthday!!!

Judy Alter said...

Thanks, Ginnie. Yes, we have had similar rich lives, though you beat me in marriages, a fact that does not make me at all sad. Hope you are quickly and thoroughly over this rough patch in your health soon.

Becky Michael said...

You gave me lots to think about, here, Judy. I also place myself in my early thirties, when I met and married my second husband. I thought that we would always be together. Divorce of two years ago proved me wrong. I'm working at being happy, near to my daughters and their families in Texas.

Judy Alter said...

Becky, thanks for commenting. I hope I helped your quest for happiness. I freely admit that all of us want someone who will treasure us above all others, and in that respect, marriage is enviable. But I think the possible disadvantages weigh in favor of the single life, supported by loving friends and families. I'm sure you also suffer from the betrayal of hopes and loyalty that is inevitable in divorce. No way around it--it's tough. My husband left me for a woman who was not necessarily younger or prettier but she offered some things I didn't (enough said).
My best wishes on your journey to happiness--believe me, it's out there.

Anonymous said...

Glad to know I'm not the only one who wishes he would have being a better, boyfriend, husband, son, friend, employee, boss...

Judy Alter said...

I suspect our numbers are great.