My husband told me this morning his rationale for doing what I had expressly forbid. That is, throwing a surprise party for my 50th birthday. The fact that the whole shindig was his idea was surprise enough. But, as he explained this morning, he wanted to do this because it marks the fact that I have officially outlived my mother and most of her siblings.
Wrong, I said. I won't have outlived my mom for another four months. Three siblings, yes. But not her. He was surprised I was being so exact. I was amazed he didn't know I would be.
So technically, this party should have been thrown in four months. When it would have been a whole lot colder outside than it already was. So it's just as well they did it now.
With two parents who are healthy and happy and who come with a fairly long-lived genetic heritage, my husband can be forgiven for not assuming I would be excruciatingly aware of exactly when I pass mine up. The bare hospital lights, the elevator ride back to the family waiting room, and the fact that, as my brother remembered yesterday, I was left to stumble through a valedictorian speech a few weeks later to a crowd I knew my mom wasn't in are memories whose clarity will never diminish. I will (and do, regularly) forget car keys, lunch appointments, and important meetings, but I won't forget that. I know exactly how old she was.
On my birthday last week, I posted a song I told my friends was my “Anthem for Turning 50.” The chorus says, “I want to live like there's no tomorrow, love like I'm on borrowed time. It's good to be alive.” More than most, I feel like I have a grasp on that borrowed time concept.
Does that sound fatalistic? Not at all. I fully plan to live another fifty if God gives it to me. As I told my sister yesterday, when she tried to remake me as a child, she learned to have a healthy regard for my stubbornness. It's not pessimistic; it's just a choice to be aware of what should and should not be taken for granted.
I also told my sister yesterday that I do not nor ever will have a bucket list. It's not that I don't have a lot of things I want to do. Way more than I can accomplish. But I want to have a bucket lifestyle, not a bucket list. Bucket lists are about conquering fears and meeting adventures. I don't want to relegate that to special events or planned excursions. I want it to be my daily default. I want every day to be one in which I ask myself what needs facing, do I have the courage to do it, and how will it help someone else?
Whether that means holding a tarantula (oh yeah, scratch that one off the nonexistent list), writing something that tells the truth, or taking a break for a friend or child, I want to do it like I may not get the chance again. I don't do that perfectly. It may take another fifty years. That's OK. I'll take it. It's been a pretty good run so far.