June 29th, 2010

How Old Am I Again?

58 today. (I checked.) However, some weeks ago, when Carol asked, "What do you want for your birthday?" I had to think a little bit to remember which one it was. Am I 57? Or 56? Oh yeah, I'm 58. Wait...not yet. 10-2=8. I think...

This isn't a classic 50s moment. I recall the occasional mental strain of remembering how old I was back in my late 30s. Am I 36? or 37? Same deal in my early 50s. 52, 53, well, they all run together. Sometimes the remembering is easier: Nice round numbers like 50 and 55 come easily to mind. 55 had the memorable cachet of granting me senior discounts at places like Denny's. I'm guessing that when I'm 60 I won't have any trouble.

It was easier knowing how old I was when I was a kid. Part of it was a constant if poorly understood preverbal ache for the privileges of age; more freedom, bigger toys. When I was 10 I was desperate to be 11, and when I was 11 I was desperate to be 12. If I'd known what was waiting behind 13 I might have turned around and been happy to stay 12. I liked 12. I hated 13. And 14. And 15. And 16. 17, now...

Like them or not, the ache made sure I always knew which year I was. However, once you're in your 20s, the things you want aren't strongly tied to age, and a lot of the birthday magic just goes away. Besides, much of the American Dream was mine before I even turned 30: I had a cool job writing computer programs, an active SF group that met twice a month, several SF stories in print, a pretty white house around the corner from the Cleavers, a great dog who could dance on his hind legs, milk cartons full of tube sockets, and a loving wife who looked like a supermodel and was my best friend. I lived as men might choose, and mostly what I wanted for my birthday was to keep what I already had.

So far so good. I now have an amazing house with CAT5e in the walls, twice as many tube sockets, four dogs who can dance on their hind legs (though one of them still needs a little prodding) a nerd gang I can hang out with, computers stacked like cordwood, and the love of a brilliant and interesting woman who has remained my best friend past forty (count 'em!) birthdays, and was always there to keep me aimed in the right direction when the inevitable bad patches turned up.

58, heh. It is a happy birthday. Thanks to all of you who sent best wishes and wrote on my Facebook Wall. You're all a big part of the reason I don't mind being 58. Oh brave and always new world, that has such people in it!