Sunday, April 2, 2017


59 is a meaningless number, signifying nothing. Other numbers have history, a certain cache. 59 needs context to rise up to the merely ordinary. 0 defines itself, its nothing. 1 is alone. 2 is a couple, 3's a crowd.  7 is lucky. Nobody wants to be behind the 8-ball. 12 is a dozen, 13 unlucky. 16 is sweet, 18 brings the age of majority and the Selective Service, 21 ushers in the full weight and statue of law. 39 is when the lying begins. 55 is the speed limit. But, 59 is null and void, empty of all meaning...right up to the very second when it means everything.

Tomorrow, I turn 59. I have 365 days left in which I can honestly describe myself as being "in my fifties." 59 is the age where everyone who learns how old you are says, "Well, at least you're not 60," small comfort indeed. I'm about to finish out my fifth decade. I've been drawing breath as a free man for 708 months, 1416 fortnights, 21535 days give or take a leap year or two. 59 winters and summers  have passed since my mother gave birth to her last child. Many of her friends had been upset with her when she announced that she was pregnant with me. Back then, my mom was a new Christian and had gathered around herself a church family. In those days we were struggling financially, which is a formulation used by mostly white people who don't want to use the word, poor. The fine ladies up at church had wondered, some aloud, what my parents could possibly have been thinking, bringing a fourth child into a house that was struggling to provide for the three they already had. Although Mom loved them dearly and valued their council, even back then, my mother didn't take crap off of anyone.  She let them know in no uncertain terms what they could do with their opinions.

Mom told me this story a few years before she died and I remember thinking how glad I was that she hadn't told it to me when I was a kid. I probably would have ended up in therapy, the psychotic people-pleaser trying desperately to prove the church ladies wrong! But, nobody who has known me more than five minutes would confuse me with a people-pleaser. That ship has sailed!

On the bright side, I feel good, my mental acuity is acute enough for government work, and I still have my hair. So, I'm ok with 59.

The funny thing is, even though they're dead and gone, at age 59 I'm still trying to make my parents proud of me. In many ways, when it comes to them, I still feel like I did when I was a little boy, knowing instinctively that I was difficult, trying not to be too loud, trying to sit still more and not worry them so. By the time I was 25 and on my own, I knew in my heart that I had caused them more grief than my other three siblings combined. But, by that time, there was nothing I could do about it except try to make them proud as an adult. I mostly did this by staying out of jail. They were probably so exhausted after the first 20 years of my life, the bar had been set pretty low. But, when I married Pam and then presented them with Kaitlin and Patrick, it felt like redemption to me.

So, tomorrow, I will wake up to my first day as a 59 year old. As a bonus, tomorrow is the beginning of the baseball season. I'm at peace with one of those things, and ecstatic about the other!

Play Ball!