Today is my birthday. Born this day in 1955, I am now 59 years-old.
I have lived one year longer than my mother did, and nine years longer than my father. I was the first-born in a family of four children, and I am also the first of these children to live longer than our parents did.
Today I stand here at the edge of the proverbial cliff, intrepid, but marveling at the uncharted territory before me. I’d rather not move forward, although I guess I have no choice but to take the first step off into the wild blue mystery.
The other day, just in time for this birthday, I came across a love letter from my past – my birth announcement, handmade by my mother and father. The blue lettering is in my father’s hand. My parents obviously inked up my foot and pressed it to paper for each announcement. Inside, in my mother’s handwriting, are the usual facts about length and weight and it is signed off with the words:
“Proud, I guess we are!!”
I am touched that my parents created this card. I am also curious about their use of the word “proud”. I am guessing new parents were more likely to call themselves “proud parents” in the 50s. “Proud” was also the word my father used often when we were growing up, mainly to warmly acknowledge an achievement.
At the time of my birth, however, my achievements were as small as I was. All I had done was arrive at a convenient hour, a little after lunch, and be born healthy. Still, my parents were “proud”, and I can only assume it was the word they used to express the excitement and the overwhelming blooming of love in their hearts for their newborn.
I know this feeling. I have experienced it with own my children.
I have come to think that “proud” was our family code word for love.
Today, as I step forward, off the cliff once again into the wild blue mystery — as we all do, every day, I am also reflecting back across my 59 years. I see a life’s journey that has been rocky and tragic and, in equal measure, pretty wonderful.
I seriously doubt it has rolled out anything like my starry-eyed, proud parents imaged for me at the time of my birth.
Today, as we mourn the loss of comedian, Robin Williams, I think, “But for the grace of God go I.” So far at least, a dogged resilience has pulled me back from the brink more than once.
But then I have always known I was loved — from the moment of my birth.
And if anything can inoculate you against the vagaries of life, love can.