A Letter for the Occasion of My Eightieth Birthday
Hello, dear one,
I hope you are reading this letter as an afterthought after lying down to reflect on a wonderful, busy day. That is the gift that I am working now to give you—a body and a mind that on your eightieth birthday will still be sharp and strong. I am working, too, to love myself now so that you will love yourself then.
Today, on our forty-sixth birthday, I sometimes find that task more difficult than I anticipated. The person in the mirror is becoming increasingly unfamiliar. Suddenly the grays are undeniable, as are the crow’s feet and smile lines, and innumerable cosmetic imperfections otherwise. I am beginning to better understand the Botox trend and the time invested at the salon. I have earned these flaws, though, and I am working to embrace them or to give myself permission not to do so. They are the price of wisdom and compassion and years well-lived, and I had thought that I would accept them as such when the time came. I hope that the woman you see in the mirror these days is an old familiar friend, that you can read without judgement the story of your beautiful life written on your body.
Year forty-seven is the year of the triathlon. That’s what we are able to do these days. After over a year of punishing headaches from pretty much any other strenuous activity, running and cycling and swimming seem to be more forgiving. Yoga rounds out the work. So we have come full circle from the university days though we aren’t running nearly so quickly. Here, too, I am learning to be gentle and patient. Yoga. Yoga is a growing love just for you. Balance and body awareness and flexible strength from this work is what I do to keep you going, to keep you from falling, to keep you lithe and spry. I hope you’ve finally mastered crow pose and inversions.
I wonder if, as you remember sitting down to write this letter, it will seem like yesterday. Often now time compresses to apparent nothingness. Yesterday Dylan learned the truth of Santa Claus, and Lilyanna started kindergarten. I can’t figure out how they went from teeny babies to half grown in a matter of days. I suppose it is the same way that I have gone from making doe eyes at the tall, cocky young fellow twenty-four years ago to wondering how in the world I can love him more now than I did then. As luck would have it, I am enamored by his mostly gray beard and smile lines. Kiss him good night for me before you close your eyes.
No doubt we have seen more losses in the years between me and you.. Already we have weathered over half a decade since we thought joy might be gone forever. I hope that, despite those inevitable losses, you still remember that it is never gone. We are just sometimes blind to it. When you begin to doubt this idea, stand with your face to the sky and remember the quote from Emerson by which we have lived this past year, “Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.” So much magic awaits us there, where the sky is our ceiling and the horizon is our never ending limit. That and love (always love) are the balms for our soul. A pen and a paintbrush don’t hurt, either. I hope the poems still visit you and the stories still tickle your mind and you have found even more things into which you can lose the worries. An octagenarian can never have too many hobbies.
For today, I will eat the bread and the cake and ride with the window down and snuggle with our boys, and I will savor it for you to remember. And I will continue to work to live fully in each moment because I have discovered just how fleeting and precious they are.
I wish for you love and grace and compassion and joy on this, your eightieth birthday,
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