I feel like I’ve been celebrating my birthday for months. Yes, it is a big one – 70. I’ve lived 20 years longer than my mother did which, as I shared with my two brothers, feels weird.
“What do you want for your birthday?” my husband queried as the year 2022 became 2023.
“I want to celebrate with a book launch party.”
The publication date for my book, Be Brave. Lose the Beige! Finding Your Sass after Sixty was May 16, 2023. So, we scheduled the early birthday bash and book launch for May 18th. I invited everyone I knew. It was one of the greatest days of my life, and a wonderful way to launch myself into my eighth decade.
My actual birthday, however, is July 17th.
“What else do you want for your birthday?” I was queried again.
“I want my children and grandchildren to visit for a few days.”
Miraculously, that wish also materialized. My son, David, my daughter Tracy, and granddaughter Maya flew into Orlando for four days. There were early morning airport pickups (1:30 AM for one) and flights into and out of different airports. Even a cancelled flight resulting in two round trips to OIA. It didn’t matter. We were together. The three amiga(o)s (David, Tracy, and I) hadn’t been in physical proximity in almost two years. I was in mom heaven.
We ate out. A lot! I’d been fretting about money during the past year and had been reluctant to spend money on indulgences. That fretting abated for four days. My kids love to frequent favorite restaurants during their stay – Hillstone, Briar Patch, Cocina 214… I don’t know if I should be horrified or pat myself on the back for having raised such excellent dining companions.
We laughed, reminisced, and examined family photos, reveling in their accompanying memories (Maya was totally bored by this activity). We played pickleball and went to the Barbie movie. It was special to watch this empowering film with my daughter and granddaughter.
I devoted a chapter in my book to the relationships Baby Boomer women have with their families. “The Tweener Generation” talks about how we are the slice of boloney sandwiched between two demanding generations and how the demands of these two generations – our parents and our children – managed to mute many of our magenta impulses.
Have you considered that many of us are like 911 on our adult children’s cell phones? Even as they crest toward 40-plus we’re still on call to help manage anxieties, offer advice, and sometimes clean up monetary messes. And what about our enabling parental behavior? I’m particularly fond of these maxims: “Parenting is not a Popularity Contest”; “Yes, your children’s shit really does stink”; and “Don’t let kid demands derail the pursuit of your passions.”
I’ve forbidden my children and former husband from reading my book for fear they will mistake my embellishment of their growing-up antics as condemnation. I love maintaining a connection and helping them brainstorm their way through problems. I probably am a little addicted to the feeling of being needed.
But I have to say, maturity is under-rated and looks really good on these people I love so much. While I received wonderfully meaningful birthday presents, the best gift was seeing the people they have become. Their compassion for people and the planet is a value they live.
I felt hungover the day after my kids returned to their respective homes. While the culinary overindulgences were probably catching up to me, I also realized it is getting harder and harder to say goodbye.
“Move to Chicago,” they urged throughout the weekend. Tempting, truly. The invitation even gave my cold-averse husband pause. Maybe at 70 I still have an adventure or two inside, I mused. Exciting to realize adventures are still an option – even, or especially, as we age into our later years. That realization inspired optimism in my attitude about the future and a spring in my step, which I believe are essential to aging well.
Christopher Bailey, the Arts and Health coordinator with the WHO (World Health Organization) says, “Feeling control over our destinies is the best indicator of good health. It helps us imagine a more hopeful future.” I think adventures small and/or large offer us that sense of control and optimism. Now, that was a great birthday gift.
What about you? Do you feel like you still have an adventure or two in store for your future? What was the best gift you got for your 70th birthday?