In the Suburbs: Just a number and another day
Tomorrow is my 76th birthday and it seems hard to believe that I’ve celebrated three landmark birthdays in Fairfield and I’m just over three-quarters of a century. When I look in the mirror, I still see the same person — a lot less hair, of course; chubbier and more weathered. But 76 is just a number, after all and another day of being glad to be alive.
My friend Andy told me last week that I have no wrinkles and still look the same. We were celebrating his 70th birthday at Centro Ristorante and complimenting each other on how well we’ve aged. His wife just rolled her eyes. I was envious of his new goatee and lamented that I could never quite do a goatee properly.
He told me I haven’t aged a bit in the nearly 20 years he has known me. He asked how I manage to look that young and all I could muster was that I am in good health, still working out at the gym and, thanks to the wonderful new dog we recently rescued, I am doing three hearty walks every day. Most of all, I am happy. My wife and I, who will celebrate our 54th anniversary later this month, are feeling great; we have two wonderful daughters, one great son-in-law and two miracle grandkids. What’s not to be happy about?
Of course, I have to thank my dad’s great genes also. When he passed away at 97, dad still looked like he was in his 70s and remained pretty active.
When we celebrated our younger grandson’s first birthday last Sunday — hail to all Leos — all I could think about was the 75-plus years that lie ahead of little Caleb and my hope is that he celebrates those and many more.
And his brother Lucas’ birthday is Aug. 27. and he’ll be celebrating 9 years and three of those are as a beloved member of our family. So much has happened for him since his adoption in 2017 from China and so many wonderful things lie ahead.
I’ve always looked forward to my birthday even if I don’t do much, because it is still a happy occasion. But my older daughter, who has always loved parties and celebrations, keeps asking me what I want to do for my birthday. That question is really code for “Let’s all go out for breakfast, lunch or dinner and dad pays the bill. Sound familiar to all grandpas?
When she asked last Sunday after Caleb’s party, I said, “Well, I have to work at the bookstore from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and maybe I’ll pick up dinner (carry out, of course) for mom and me. Would love to see you guys again, of course, but really won’t feel like going out for dinner.”
She offered Sunday and any day during the rest of the coming week. I just laughed.
“It’s not that I don’t want to party, Stacey. But 76 is just another year for me after all.
“Dad,” she reminded. “Every year is a gift for you.”
“Is that a hint that my time’s almost up? ” I asked.
“No, I didn’t mean that at all,” she said. “I just meant that any birthdays are meant to be celebrated. But, if you’d rather do nothing, we understand.”
Actually, my family was always big on celebrations and for my 50th and 60th, we really did celebrate. But my wife really gave me the best surprise for my 50th. After I hinted that I wanted a surprise party, she told me she could never surprise me and said to plan my own party. So, I did.
I called family, friends and colleagues from all over the country, told them the party was happening in mid-August that year and to expect invitations. Then my wonderful, albeit sneaky wife and our younger daughter Jeri, got on the phone while I was at work, called everyone back and rescheduled the surprise party for two weeks before mine. She even asked my sister-in-law, who wanted to see “Ms. Saigon” in New York, to meet me in New York to keep me away while they prepared.
Later, when we arrived on the street, I couldn’t find a place to park but never suspected a thing. Only when I walked through the door and 50 people yelled surprise was I in shock for the rest of the evening. Now that was truly a magnificent and special birthday.
For my 60th, the whole family came from the Midwest and the South and my folks hosted a huge brunch at what was then the Dakota. The brunches there were to die for and I truly miss that place. It was a fabulous birthday.
By the time 75 rolled around last year, I received an early and unique present that truly outdid any big party — the unexpected arrival of little Caleb on Aug. 3. He was strong and healthy and our special miracle. We have celebrated this entire year.
When my actual birthday rolled around on Aug. 8, we were busy helping Stacey get settled, running errands and amusing Lucas. So, 75 became just another number and my birthday became just another day. It truly became a very special birthday in every way.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears occasionally on Fridays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.