I turned 46 yesterday.
It was strange on many fronts, but most notably the fact that right up until midnight the day before I turned 46, I still considered myself to be 45. In years past, I’d always started referring to my up-and-coming age several months before my actual birthday, just to get used to the idea.
I’m not sure why I was holding on to 45 so hard. I guess I kind of like that number. I like any number that ends with a five. They’re easy to add and they’re right down the middle, just the way I like things.
Forty-six, on the other hand, is a bit harder to swallow.
It’s a nothing age really. Not a milestone birthday by any means. Not like the first (hey, we didn’t kill our infant) or the 13th (wow, the kid’s a teenager) the 16th (holy shit, my kid can drive) the 18th (sorry kid, you can’t drink yet, but you can vote) the 21st (have a beer!) 30th (time to grow up asshole) 40th (yeah, about that 401k, maybe it’s time to start putting something in it) or 50 (well, you lived a half a century – congratulations). That’s why I was so surprised I dreaded it so much.
I think it all started on Thursday at the Secretary of State’s office when I had to get my driver’s license renewed. I went early in the morning to beat the crowd, which I did, and I even put on a nice shirt for my new picture. Having a nice picture of myself on my license may be a silly thing to worry about, but it is the picture I’m stuck with for the next four years and it’s the first thing I see whenever I open my wallet. (Nobody wants to look like a complete ass in their driver's license picture, but let's face it, the over-under on doing just that are pretty high!)
So far, in my previous seven tries, I’ve been somewhat lucky to come out of the “one-shot-and-your-done” photo session with a fairly decent picture. I think this is due, in part, to the fact that I’m a professional photographer so I kind of know how to pose, but probably more to the fact that I have a summer birthday so I’m always tan in my photo.
This year, I was surprised to find out that they actually show you your mug before they slap it on your license. I didn’t shave the morning of my renewal pic because I thought a little razor stubble might make me look more intriguing or handsome in an older way, you know, like George Clooney or Brett Favre. Needless to say I was a little taken aback when they showed me my photo and I looked more like a sleep-deprived psycho killer.
“How is that?” The Secretary of State employee asked me when she showed me my photo.
“Who is that? Is more like it.” I answered. “Wow, I look like shit.”
It was true. I had bags under my eyes; my razor stubble was darker than Clooney’s (more like Time-magazine-cover-O.J.), and the summer tan on my face had somehow gone from “glowing” to “official NFL football” in the past four years.
To make matters worse, they didn’t even ask me if I wanted to be an organ donor. When I brought it up, the woman just looked at me as if to say, “Yeah, well, you’re kind of getting to that age where your organs are a little too used and no one really wants them.”
Hey, I want them … they’re not so bad … are they?
I left less than 15-minutes after I had arrived – record time for the Secretary of State’s office, and a good thing apparently, since I don’t have much time to waste now that I’ve officially crested the wave into old age ... or at least older middle age.
I’m closer to 50 than to 40 - halfway to 92, which I probably won’t see, so by all rights I’m more than halfway dead. This doesn’t sit well with me, not one bit, and my son didn’t help matters much yesterday when he asked me if a lot of people die on their birthdays. What the hell kind of question is that? I told him he'd better hope not since it just so happened to be my birthday and we were barreling down I-275 at 80 mph.
Just in case, I felt my pulse to make sure everything was okay. You never know these days. The older you get, the more paranoid you are about your health. Heart attacks, cancer, strokes, aneurisms – hell, there’s a number of killers waiting at the doorstep, and that number only increases with each passing year. I’ve been lucky up till now, but you never know, earlier in the week I was battling constipation and I ended up blowing out a hemorrhoid (if that’s not a harbinger for bad things to come, I don’t know what else is - goodbye Captain Crunch, hello All Bran!)
As luck would have it, I lived through the day. It wasn’t much of a birthday (as it shouldn’t have been). We were going to go to a Detroit Tiger’s game, but my son got invited to play in a baseball tournament by one of the travel baseball teams in our division who needed an extra player, so we did that instead. I’d rather watch him play than the Tigers anyhow. It was a lot of fun for me, and even more fun for him.
Eamon pitching for the Northville Cubs. (Photo by Lon Horwedel)
Later that night we all went to dinner. Nothing fancy, just Red Robin, but I made sure I got a turkey burger instead of a hamburger since I’m getting older and I need to watch the fat. I even gave my free dessert to the kids. Sadly, I was in bed before midnight and it was all over.
Unlike my childhood when I raked in all kinds of cool, summertime booty for my birthday like ball gloves, squirt guns, pup tents and skateboards, this year I got cards from my dad, my sister and my mother-in-law. My kids gave me cards too, really nice ones in fact – hand made even, and the stuff they wrote inside made me realize that if nothing else rubbed off on them, my sarcasm sure as hell did, and that made me very proud.
It turns out my kids actually dig me. Even if I embarrass the hell out them when I wear a Speedo to the city pool, or fart in front of their friends, they still think I’m pretty cool for a dad, which means a lot to me. I mean, how many dads can have their kids call them an asshole in their birthday card and take it as a compliment?
They make me not care about getting old, but they also make me want to hold on to my youth even more. And these days, with all the uncertainty in the world and in my life, it’s nice to have something you can count on, and for me that something is this:
No matter how old I am, I’m almost certain my kids will grow up long before I ever do!