Thursday, April 21, 2016

Happy birthday? Why?

Well, I just turned 67 years of age.

Personally, if I were you, I would figure that deserves a spot in the Great Big Book of Why Would I Care About That? Seriously, another year on. And It's not an isolated incident. As long as you live, it's the same thing year after year.

But, your birthday demands some kind of attention, right? Even if you don't ask for it, you get it. Now, with Facebook, it's even more so.

When I was a kid, when birthdays may actually have meant something, neither me nor most of my friends had birthday parties. A couple of the more well-to-do families might have given their child/children a party/parties, but there weren't too many of those in my circle of friends.

My new American friends gave me a couple of parties early on. They realized I'd never had a party and wanted to make sure I had one in this wonderful, new, home of the brave, land of the free and birthday parties for everyone! It was a nice surprise and people gave me stuff. Nice.

Somewhere between there and now, though, I pretty much lost interest in my birthdays in general and parties in particular.

Look, I think there are certain birthdays that matter. The year marked is some sort of watershed, so, yes, they are something of a big deal.

When you turn five, or so, you generally begin going to school. I think until that moment, your social grace and skills have slowly but steadily been getting stronger. Once you start school, the long slide into social mediocrity irrevocably begins.

Then, as you move into double digits, you and/or your family take care of some religious obligations. First Communion, First Confession, Bar Mitzvah, Bat Mitzvah. Important to mark those events, with or without a party.

At 16, earning a driver's license becomes an issue. Some are ready, some are not, but the fact that such a huge step toward adulthood is available hangs over everyone's head like the Sword of Damocles.

While turning 18 and registering for the Draft isn't the horror it was when I became 18, it's nevertheless a milestone. You can vote, though the legal drinking age now pretty much remains three years away.

There's where I think the last birth year worth noting sits. You've been given all these rights and opportunities and now you can even toss them all away in one night of unacceptable drinking behavior. That first felony conviction's a doozy, brothers and sisters.

While I believe all of that to be true, I must also say that since I became a cancer sufferer, the passing years mean something different. Look, I find it hard to generate enthusiasm for another birthday. It still feels like just another year, just another auld lang syne.

What is different, though, is that each year now feels like a marker of some kind. Like living to another Christmas, a grandson's graduation, another beautiful, sun-filled day sitting in our yard with my wife. So a birthday becomes another marker of time achieved, of cancer held at bay for a while longer.

And one last thing about birthdays. Aren't we recognizing and celebrating the wrong person in that deal? What was the birthday celebrant's part in the process? You lounged in a nice warm, sauna-like setting, soaking up the nutrients, pretty much just chillin'. Your mom on the other hand, spends about 38 weeks purring on weight, fighting swollen feet, clothes that are not comfortable, knowing at the end of it all she's going to have to pass the equivalent of a bowling ball through a space made for a tennis ball. And she doesn't get the party, why??!!!

She's the one who should get the cake, and the presents, and the singing. Good job, mom. Just sayin'.

There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere