In just a few hours it will be my birthday. Birthdays seem to come very quickly these days. I’ve now reached almost, but not quite, 77. A few hours to go before the commemoration begins.
I don’t make a big deal about birthdays. I don’t even send the ubiquitous Facebook birthday greetings. After all, everyone has a birthday every year.
But as I get old, and I just can’t deny that that’s what’s happening to me, I reflect on things that I used to ignore. Like my age. And if, perchance, my mirror lied and I forgot how many years are behind me, the kindness extended to me in public places would be an apt reminder. People get up to give me seats. They don’t question when I ask for the senior citizen price. I wish they would!
Do I have the wisdom of the aged? Emphatically not. I still don’t feel like a real grownup even though I’ve got grandchildren who expect me to be mature and wise. As a matter of fact, they already expect me to be post-wise and somewhat senile. I probably am. I do repeat things. My anecdotes are already too familiar, and sometimes they tell me they’ve heard them before. Sometimes they don’t.
I’ve reached the point where I cover for my inadequacy at times. And I’ve definitely reached the point where Google has become my closest friend. I turn to it for all those things on the tip of my tongue that just sort of swish around and don’t get remembered until I type in hints on Google. What was the name of that movie? Who was president then? Jeopardy sorts of things. Stuff I would have known readily a few years back. It’s a tad alarming but I reassure myself. I can’t always find my keys but I still know what they’re for.
But what I mostly reflect on is how lucky I was to be born where I was. A quick calculation will tell you that I was born in 1939, a pretty scary time in world history. I could easily have been born in the Poland of all four of my grandparents, had they not packed, with blind faith, and moved to America. And while it was still remotely possible that my mother and father would have met and married in Europe, since they all came from the area around Bialystok, I would have been born with the ugly scent of war, embracing the world with terror and hatred and fear, and worse. Much much worse.
Like my friend K. She’s a month older than I. She was born in Yugoslavia and is alive now because the nuns in the convent who had hidden her from the Nazis taught her the Catholic prayers. Her ability tio recite them convinced the Nazis that she couldn’t be Jewish. Her father, on the other hand, did not live to almost 98 like my father did. Her father died in his 30’s in a place called Auschwitz.
Indeed I was lucky..
And in my lifetime I’ve seen and enjoyed the birth of Israel, a place I’ve come to call my own. It is a place born of blood, but also of technical wonders, remarkable assimilation of Jews from everywhere and a world leader. To many travelers, Israel is known now as a foodie paradise. Imagine. Imagine that! It sounds so trivial, unless you are starving. I had a delicious birthday dinner today. The food is wonderful. Israelis are so resilient. War after war and they’ve built a foodie paradise. Amazing.
Getting old is often what it’s cracked up to be. Aches and pains. But it’s also a time to reflect on where you’ve come from, and, most importantly, where you’re going.