My son turns forty-two today. I’m filled with gratitude, but I’m also filled with confusion. How did this happen? How can he be forty-two when I am only forty in my head?
I realize each new birthday chokes many with terror. Just last week a friend and I were discussing milestone birthdays over lunch. Her son-in-law was turning thirty and having a really tough time. He didn’t want to celebrate. He didn’t want a party. He wanted to stay home, watch TV, and pretend it was just another day.
Maybe you know people like that, who face each birthday with angst. If you ask them how old they are, they change the subject. They never show their driver’s license, and they refuse to apply for senior discounts, even though they could save a bucket of money.
Not me, there’s gray in my hair for a reason, and that reason isn’t a box representative of the latest glamour fad.
I didn’t attain this age without a few battle scars. Years ago, when my son moved his family to Washington in search of better employment, I was my son’s worst nightmare. I didn’t want a long distance relationship with his family. I didn’t want my grandson growing up without me. Lee Ann Womack’s song, I Hope You Dance, was popular at the time and stuck in my head like a worm as I drove the many miles to see his new home. The day I had to leave, I hugged my son and whispered, “I hope you dance.” He gave me a confused look and said, “I’m a lousy dancer. I have two left feet.” Maybe he was trying to make me smile, or maybe he didn’t get it. Even so, I cried for an hour, tears blurring the lush Washington scenery, before I stopped feeling sorry for myself and pulled up my big girl panties.
I don’t face birthdays with trepidation. In my head, I’m a fearless fortyish female at the top of my game, eager for each new adventure. But sometimes my legs don’t move as fast as I’d like them to. Sometimes, if I spend too much time pulling weeds, it takes a while before I can stand up straight. I don’t eat chili before bed, or indulge in caffeine in the afternoon, and I gave up pretending I could read the fine print without glasses.
But I digress. Today is my son’s forty-second birthday. Perhaps in his mind, he’s still a teenager, eager to be on his own. He is a good father; he is a good son. As he faces each new day, I hope he will make time to dance.