We lined up in a yard too hilly for football but just muddy enough for 11-year-old boys. We only had a basic grasp of the rules – football as an organized sport wouldn’t come to Powell County for another two years – but we knew how to throw and run, and while we didn’t know for certain the proper ins and outs of tackling, we still hit each other as young boys do. Which is to say with a reckless abandon that comes without fear of broken limbs and lost teeth.
Battered and muddy (and no doubt exhausted), we marched back to my house for cake and presents. I’m sure Star Wars was dutifully represented in the gifts, probably He-Man, too, but only one gift clearly stands out: the Wheel of Fortune board game, oddly enough. We might have been months away from official football, but Pat Sajak and Vanna White are forever.
It was my greatest birthday.
I turn 40 today, an age at which many men find themselves at a loss as they balance between holding on to their youth and facing getting older. Hair, which hasn’t fallen off my head, is turning grey. My left knee has undergone four surgeries with a fifth being put off as long as absolutely possible. My back yells at me every day, then really starts hurting every night.
Last month, a co-worker asked if I was ready to turn 40.
Only a few years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to face it. I found myself broken and hopeless, resigned to a life without a true connection with anyone else. I willingly pushed people away, particularly if they attempted any effort to get close.
I lived alone and lonely.
And then …
And then …
There you were (and are). There I was (and am). Then. Now. Tomorrow. Beyond.
That is my birthday wish: Today, tomorrow, the next day, and the next. And the next. And the next. So on and so forth. Can I blow my candles out now and start?
I embrace today because I am ready to turn 40 with you by my side. You are the answer to every question I’ve ever had, including the ones I’ve never been smart enough to ask. I don’t know how to adequately say how much my life has changed simply because I met you. Words fail me, not because I can’t write them but because phrases haven’t been coined to express what you mean. How does the moon thank the sun for providing it light?
Just keep on shining.