It’s official. I’m thirty-nine, for the first time. Any birthday past nineteen, ending in a nine, must be qualified if you’re not hiding your age. I figure there’s no point, and people in my family age slowly as far as the physical aspects go. One of my brothers gave me a card for 40, and crossed it out in pen to put 39. Another one gave me a musical card with the ‘dancing hamster.’ He said it annoyed him, so he knew I’d love it. I think my nephew enjoyed getting supper at Boston Pizza. We had fun.
Two of my brothers say I should dye my ‘racing stripe.’ One of them said, it’s not striping, it’s blending. Whatever. I’ve earned my white hair. Sure, it’s a sign of stress, when one streak of gray appears in dark hair. At least people have finally stopped calling me, ‘kiddo.’ I was never fond of that. Besides, it’s kind of offbeat, just like me.
Another thing that no longer happens is the ‘this is for your birthday and for Christmas,’ thing. I always hated that. I was too polite to say it, but I always thought, ‘you cheapskate, you wouldn’t pull this if my birthday was in June.’ Now, except for close family and friends, I don’t get birthday gifts, just Christmas gifts. I still get cards, which is nice. Thanks to everybody who sent one.
Physically, it’s winter that ages me. I never could take the cold. In fact, I never understood why anyone would want to spend time outdoors when it was cold. Skiing, skating, snowboarding…why? One thing I can point to is the hip surgery I had when I was a toddler. Sure, I can walk, run, and jump, but I think that’s where the inability to tolerate the cold started. In elementary school I hated when they posted an ‘outdoor day’ in spite of the cold. (To be honest, back then I thought the teachers were just being too lazy to watch the kids. Sorry about that.) I found refuge in the library, which turned out to be a safe place from the bullies too. Ever try to pick on somewhen while you’re being shushed? And they’re not even shivering?
I normally don’t think about aging, but that Marvel comic book character thing probably triggered it. I googled my own name and found out they had once created a character with an alias of Phyllis Twombly, who supposedly lived for 600 years in the American mid-west. I was floored to see an illustration of her on her death bed, a shrivelled, pale thing not long for this world. I don’t plan on spending 600 years on this planet, nor do I intend to look like that when I die. I have to survive long enough to get the resources to move to a warm climate where I can thrive. I call it my ‘survive and thrive’ plan.
Two years ago one of my cousins committed suicide. He did it on the eve of what would have been his 40th birthday. There were other reasons he must have thought were ‘just cause,’ but no doubt he thought there was something particularly symbolic about refusing to turn forty. I find that very sad, and I miss him. But I don’t know if I’ll ever get over the anger I feel about the fact that he denied himself–and me–so much. There have been wonderful things that happened in my life since his death, that he would have enjoyed sharing. He let his personal tormentors win, instead of just giving someone a call to talk. It’s my belief that people do not commit suicide because they want to die–they do it because they want to end their pain. The way to end that pain is to go talk to somebody. Every time you share your personal torment, it gets a bit less. Some people will quit listening, but that’s when you go find someone else, or even a professional, to talk to. Getting older is nothing to be upset about. Aging is a sign you’re still living. And that’s wonderful. It’s certainly better than having a cousin who’s angry with you.
Thanks for reading.
Phyllis K Twombly