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Birthday Reflections

Birthdays! Some of us love them and will dedicate an entire week to celebrating the special day, while others hope and prefer that it just go unnoticed and treat it just like “any other day.”

In any event, I hope that everyone at least has cake, pie, ice cream, cookies, or whatever you enjoy on your special day. If not, tell me when your birthday is and I will celebrate with those goodies for you!

I love my birthday. Dec. 21. The day winter usually begins. I always thought that winter began on the 21st of December until I started noticing that calendars were showing it before or after that day on occasion. Oh well, I still claim that winter begins on my birthday, regardless of what the calendar says.

My brother Tim was born on Dec. 25, so he has the distinction of being a Christmas baby, which is another reason why I hold on to the idea that winter ALWAYS begins on my birthday, just so I can have the claim to having something “special” fall on my birthday.

Another interesting tidbit about my special day is that I share it with my sister-in-law Cheryl. Not just the date, mind you, but the year and the hospital too! We were both born at Sturgis Hospital about 12 hours apart on the same day and same year. Interesting, right?

As much as I love birthdays and the attention, this birthday was the one I have been dreading. It was a milestone, but not one that you would expect. I already had the milestones of becoming a teenager, climbing into adulthood, reaching the magical age of 21, and hitting the quarter century mark.

But this one was bigger and more meaningful, and one that I have both looked forward to, but yet fretted over, for many years.

And big surprise … I did NOT turn 40!

No, the milestone was not the one that most people fear most. I am not entering a mid-life crisis or anything like that, either.

I simply turned 39. The BIG 3-9. Yes, that is the age I have been dreading for the past two-plus decades.

The reason is simple. That is the age my mother was when she passed away from cancer. My siblings and I always talked about it as we each inched closer and closer to that magic number.

I don’t know if they really thought about it as much as I did. But we were all aware of it. We all want to live as long as our parents, especially if they live to a ripe old age. But when a parent passes away at such a young age, it kind of puts life in a different perspective.

I guess there was always a little fear in my mind that I might not make it to my 39th birthday. I mean, did my mom really think that her life would end at such a young age, especially with children that depended on her at home?

Now that I have reached that “magical” age, it has made me stop and think just how young my mom really was when she lost her battle. I think of my children and how they would react to losing me right now. I wonder about how life would change for them and my wife, without me being there. But most of all, it pains me to no end to think about not being able to watch my babies grow up and experience life and to grow old with my wonderful wife. I also think of my children in the respect that I do not remember much about my mom, so it is important to me to make sure we make the most out of each and every day.

As I celebrated my birthday, with my wife, daughters, friends and a few thousand others at a Kalamazoo Wings game last Friday, I was both at ease with my life but also mourning my mother, even after all these years.

All in all, it was a happy birthday. But now that it is over, I can begin preparing/worrying/agonizing for the BIG 4-0!