The big birthdays

Those big birthdays that end in zeros and fives cause celebrations or anguish, depending on the number and your attitude. I’m in the celebration camp this year.  

Yes, I just experienced a big one. It ended in a zero and started with a six. I started celebrating it in January by buying fun eyeglasses. Who wants to enter a new decade looking dowdy? I can look old later. Much later.  

I have a close friend in Iowa whose birthday is a few weeks after mine.  Although born in the same year, she’s not celebrating. In fact, she’d rather not discuss it. How can we have arrived at this time of our lives with such different attitudes about becoming the “new middle age?” Simply put, our circumstances differ. We’ve both been lucky and unlucky in our lives, but we arrive at 60 on differing trajectories.

When I worked more than full time in corporate America, I noted the passing of each year as one more step toward retirement. Yes! But there were times before and since when the path wasn’t so certain: we moved out of state and started over; I went off to grad school when Dan was working part time; there were a couple of layoffs. And there were personal lows that made work impossible. One element of our relationship is that we continued moving forward together — as much as we could under the circumstances.   

What Dan and I did at every negative financial setback was celebrate.  Exactly. We went out to dinner and a bottle of wine for a “Goodbye to the High Life” evening. We generally weren’t living the “high life” but that’s not the important part of the story. We knew life would change. When doesn’t it? But before we started “adjusting,” we would celebrate our general good fortune.  

Turning 60 is a time of celebration for me, but as importantly, it is a time of reflection. At this age, reflection is allowed. Life has been grand. Life has truly sucked. So be it. 

I wish I had the opportunity to say “I’m sorry” for many things I’ve done throughout my life, to people I’ve hurt. I’m considering writing notes to some of the people in this category, hoping a lapse of a couple of decades will still convey the sincerity of the apology. Saying “thank you” to all the people who have helped me, supported us, cared about my girls, and loved us all, would take the rest of my life. I value friendships, ones that are decades in the making and ones that I’ve only begun to enjoy. My truly close friends’ ages range from 20 to 80 and beyond. How amazingly wonderful is that?

In this time of big celebrations, let’s go for all the corny clichés — go for the gusto, seize the day, etc., because we only get to do this wonderful thing called living one time. May the force be with you. May the odds be ever in your favor. May you live long and prosper.  

Who are we at 21, 60, or 90? We are who we believe we are, who we’ve worked to become. I hope everyone can really celebrate their big birthdays and most of the ones in between. If not, at least go out for a “Good Bye of the High Life Dinner!” 

Welcome Jerde lives in Lynnhurst with her husband/editor, Dan Berg, and her daughter, Hannah, when she isn’t at college. When not writing, Welcome works at Broders’, organizes monthly service projects through Service Works, and leads trips to Tanzania to work in a small village.