Sunday, September 02, 2012

The Big 8-O

I thought my birthday would pass like a gentle breeze on a spring day. Not so. The date reached the headlines along with the day before and continued through the day after. My day roared through like a storm, a storm named Issac. My birthday was August 30 and Issac paid thousands a visit a day earlier and continued spinning in place as it roared like the lion from MGM movie reels.    

No matter how many times we prepare for tornadoes and hurricanes we are rarely ready to meet the torment head on. Neither do I expect to meet my birthday head on. This year I wanted to wake up, read the cards and answer the phone calls from my favorite friends and family, have a quiet breakfast and examine myself  closely in the mirror to assess myself. That lasted less than an hour since waking up.

At 7 a.m. son J called to say we had to celebrate my birthday in a festive way, "How about lunch?" I didn't want to get dressed, go rushing into a possible rainstorm and celebrate when so many thousands of folks were struggling elswhere to make sense of loss. Seemed like an anachronism. But R and I met J and his family and mother-in-law for a delightful lunch.

There remained the rest of the afternoon to ponder over my age and what I would accomplish in the coming year. Sometime ago I'd set a goal of living to be 140 years old, not because I would accomplish that, but to force myself to be optimistic  to accomplish small, selfish goals I've set for myself and enjoy the days and nights left in my small world.

Instead, I ended up remembering seven years ago when R and I were cloistered in an elementary school in Pennsylvania because a flooding Delaware River.We couldn't cross any one of the four bridges to reach Barryville, NY where we were living for the summer. This was August 30, the day after Katrina had destroyed the Gulf Coast, news we hadn't heard about until we stopped at the school. Our car was loaded to its roof with cat and her house plus our clothes from visiting our daughter for 10 days in Maine, andfour bags of groceries. We asked the cafeteria workers if we could store our cold items in the school's fridges, to which they kindly consented.

We sat for six hours with nothing more to do than talk with each other and those around us waiting for a signal that bridges were clear, while a driving rain pounded outside. We napped on old Army cots that must have broken the backs of many a WWII soldier from use and covered ourselves with rough wool blankets smelling like the mustiness of a closed up basement. We were experiencing what thousands were at the same time, under different conditions. We were amid 100 people who were fed snacks and juices from the school's storehouse by the friendliest cafeteria workers who came out of the comfort of their homes to help us. By 3:00 a.m. we were told we could leave. Our time there had been decent, nothing like we read about later in other places. I passed my birthday  exhausted from the long hours of nothing to do, not by being soaking wet and hungry. How fortunate we were.

 I consider this August 30 as my 8-0 birthday. That sounds younger, don't you think?