One, two, three… we’ve known the progression for years. When applied to age mile markers, what makes some matter more than others? Which do we pick out for emphasis? Certainly one, a unique, special number. And two, three, four, five – small ones carry power, for they mark significant increments. Two is one doubled, five is a whole handful of fingers, etc. Then we start skipping. Ten, fifteen, sixteen – is that just because of the quinceaneras? – twenty, twenty-one… After that it’s decades, until we get to sixty-five, which I do in two days.
I remember some of the earlier “big” years. After the little girls left my fifth birthday party, my older sister broke out in measles, and she, my younger sister and I all went through those and mumps and chicken pox, someone ill the whole time, until Easter. In addition, Carol had a heart murmur and I was hospitalized with pneumonia. Mother soldiered on with Daddy traveling West Texas and New Mexico Mondays through Fridays, though with the heart murmur at home and pneumonia in the hospital, she called in her mother to help. My twenty-first, I was in Roswell, New Mexico, with Betty Ely Nichols and her family. I ate sopaipillas for the first time. When I tore one into pieces rather than biting off a corner to pour in honey, someone (Mrs. Ely, I think) gave up hers so I could try it the right way. My twenty-fifth birthday, I had driven from Nashville, Tennessee to Newport News, Virginia, staying up all night and too tired to rest when we got there. When I got up from the fruitless effort, I found my first wrinkle. All in my circle of friends know Beth Weaver was getting married on my birthday, but only one remembered and wished happiness.
Number thirty was a dreaded number welcomed. A could of months earlier, I’d confirmed I was finally pregnant. Forty? I decided if I didn’t grow up by the time I was forty, I never would. I set out to lose weight, to get organized, to fix a lot of broken parts of me, doing a decent job. At the end of that year I got up the nerve to run for office as judge of a newly created court. I call 1997 my hell year. It started before, in October, with younger son’s surgery. The big fifty happened in January, then in the Spring my dad was hospitalized with ARSD for seven weeks, two in intensive care on a ventilator. Because of the October injury and surgery, an arrogant, asinine, stupid coach set up a chain of events that caused my younger son to graduate from high school at that quoinceanera year. I’d told him he could not move out until reaching the next birthday because as juvenile judge I didn’t want to be the mother of a runaway. But he’d had the birthday and was at home with his father and I was afraid he’d leave or somebody would kill the other one. As tense as a body could get, I got my fifty-year-old body out of the bathtub, reaching up for balance, and severed my rotator cuff. Surgery for that, then a blood clot, then surgery on my older son before we could drive 250 miles to get there. The fiftieth year was memorable, all through.
I reached sixty a month after I found a fellowship, a family, a home in a recovery. More comfortable and carefree than I’d ever been, no trauma attached. Later that year, though, when my sister reached sixty-five, I felt old. Now, as I attain that number? The significance is my insurance cost lowering! That despite the fact I was confused for someone else yesterday, and I happen to know she’s considerably older than I. We don’t look like each other, do we? How could anybody confuse is?
Numbers are just numbers. Years are just years. And time to be savored, to be counted one-by-one, lived one day at a time in the fullest and most joyous way possible. Come run with me!
An author, editor, and publisher with Silver Boomer Books, “Barbara B. Rollins” appears on thirteen books. Her most recent, A Cloud of Witnesses – Two Big Books and Us, written with OAStepper, matches each verse in the book of Hebrews with a quotation from the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, and responds in poetry and prayer. It is the sequel to A Time for Verse – Poetic Ponderings on Ecclesiastes which lacks the Big Book quotes. The six Silver Boomer Books anthologies are edited in part by Barbara, and she has a forensic crime solvers series for children from Capstone Press and the young adult novel, Syncopated Summer. A retired judge, Barbara still sits occasionally but more often sits in her car, going or coming from wherever she chooses.