My Family (a long time ago)

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Last week I celebrated my birthday, and not just any run-of-the-mill birthday, but a milestone birthday. One week ago, I celebrated my 50th birthday! It was a pretty good week, as birthday wishes poured in almost every day. Well, OK, they didn’t pour in every day, but I did get at least one just about every day of the week. Then last Saturday, we had a party at my house and lots of my friends and family stopped by for some food, some hanging out and lots of laughs. It was a great time!

One thing I find amusing was the number of people who thought I would try to hide the fact that I was turning 50, like it was something bad. I can just picture two people talking in hushed tones:
“Did you hear about Joe?”
“No, what’s up with him?”
A quick glance around. “He’s turning…50.”
“Oh, no! How’s he doing? Is he OK?”

Yeah, I’m OK. Really. One of my brothers cracked that “50 is the new 30”. I don’t know if that is true or not, but I do know that 50 is not that old. Statistically speaking, I can expect to live another 25-30 years. And with all the preservatives I’ve eaten of the years, maybe another 35-40 years! Who knows, maybe some brilliant researcher will find the fountain of youth or figure out a way to slow the aging process. Because if I’m going to live to 90 or 100, I want to be healthy. Right now, thank God I am. Besides, being eighth out of nine, I have siblings that are already into the 60’s and they don’t seem old to me. Even if they are grandparents.

So after a great birthday week, I spent the first week of my new year…sick. Now I expected a bit of a letdown after the big 5-0, there always is in the days following a big event, but this was not just a letdown. It was a beatdown. For two days, the biggest thing I did was move from the bed to the couch downstairs so I could watch some TV, or move from the couch to the bed upstairs so I could go to bed. That was after sleeping for more than half the day. Over those two days, I ate one piece of toast, one bowl of Tasteeos cereal (a generic and better version of Cheerios) and a couple of scoops of ice cream. That’s it. Maybe that’s why people talk in hushed tones about turning 50!

As I lay there on the couch the second day, I of course thought back to being sick as a kid. Other than a short stretch in third grade, I didn’t get sick much. Maybe it was because of the rules Mom had for when we were sick. It wasn’t a fun time staying home from school, which is probably why we didn’t like it much. We had to stay not just in our room, but in our bed. There was no TV allowed. We could read in our bed or we could rest in our bed. When we got a little older there were no phone calls from friends allowed either. For meals, we got toast, maybe some soup. For drinks, we got water, some orange juice and, if we were lucky, warm ginger ale.

But this was the rule that always made me think if I really needed to stay home: if you missed one day of school because you were sick, you needed to stay home one more day to make sure you were better. So if you were sick on Tuesday, you stayed home on Wednesday, too. If you were sick on Thursday, you had to stay home on Friday. This meant that when we got older, we couldn’t go out on Friday night. Oh, and by the way, you probably couldn’t go out on Saturday either because you needed to get your rest and make sure you didn’t get sick again and miss school on Monday. The result of being sick on Thursday was that you didn’t go out of the house until you went back to school on Monday morning, except maybe for church on Sunday, and only if you seemed to be totally well. I can remember a few times feeling kind of sick on a Thursday but going to school anyway so that my whole weekend was spent sitting in the house doing nothing.

As much as I didn’t like it back then, I appreciate it now because I don’t miss work just because I don’t feel like going into the office. I really need to be sick or I’m going in. Maybe it’s being responsible or maybe it’s because I hear a little voice in the back of my head reminding me of the rules of being sick. And dry toast with some warm ginger ale is just not going to cut it these days.

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