Tuesday, Aug 21, 2018
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Mary Alice Powell

Surviving rude inquiries on another birthday

I survived another birthday anniversary.

Friends and family made the expected comments and didn’t ask any surprise questions. I expected to be told how good I looked. Are they going to say anything else to the birthday celebrant, young or old? I did dress up, have my hair styled, and nails polished.


Mary Alice Powell

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The questions were also standard: “How old were your parents when they died?” “Are you still driving?” “How long ago was it that you had cancer?” “Maybe the candles are too much with your emphysema?”

No, they are not too much to blow out; all of them in one swell puff. And yes, I am still driving. I really don’t remember the date with cancer and never think of it unless a rude, unthinking person brings it up.

The bottom line is that I really like my birthday from beginning to end. Sometimes I try to be coy and say “Oh, it’s just another day.” But it’s not.

It’s my day, to look back and to ponder the future. Of course there’s the birthday dinner, a fine single blend scotch, and the traditional cake to keep the celebration in motion.

With 24 hours to celebrate there’s plenty of time for meditation when I am alone. Where have I been and more important, where do I go from here? It’s not how many more birthdays will there be, it’s what exciting thing can I do to celebrate next year, and the next.

My birthday was a big event for both parents when I was growing up even though they divorced when I was 3. It was a double dip of parties because both mother and dad got into the act at their individual homes with a cake, gifts, and balloons. I have always believed it was love for their only child and not competing parents that propelled the parties.

My cousin Joyce is in every birthday party photo in the family albums. We are five weeks apart in age and celebrated together from diaper days until a few years ago. I called her in the nursing home in Florida last month and she said something that proved her memory is intact when she thinks of past good times.

“Where are you? We always celebrate together.”

My answer was a promise that I will be there soon and that we will go out for liver and onions, her favorite meal. Furthermore I will drive to Florida so that people can say, “I can’t believe you drove all the way to Florida.” Believe it. I can do it.

So where have I been on this wonderful journey called life? I can’t bore listeners with stories of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren like the average senior. But, I can curl up in my easy chair, and quietly review the wonderful trip I have been on for many years. I am not referring to world travels, but day-to-day living that through journalism has allowed me to share in the lives of people in all walks of life. Nothing makes me happier than to find a good story about ordinary people.

My farm grandmother, a Prussian immigrant who came to America through Ellis Island, New York, believed that she lived in the best of times because electricity and the automobile were introduced in her lifetime and she could keep food cold in a refrigerator instead of the dirt cellar.

The technical and scientific advancements in my lifetime are staggering. We seniors remember crowding around the first small oval television screens to watch the black and white picture. Years later, on larger screens, we watched history recorded when man landed on the moon. Imagine life without computers, emails, cell phones, voice mail, digital cameras, and myriad tech equipment that keeps us in touch, or perhaps too much in touch. I have seen it all and am braced for more miracles in communication, but at this point in life advanced medical technology is more rewarding.

So where am I going? Hopefully the answer is not into a room down the hall from my cousin but to keep on trucking with plans for each day and for the future. Because of medical break throughs, optimism for healthy longevity comes easy. “Go for it” is my motto.

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