I’m Forty-Three Today…

birthday, by ben tempone…and when when my eyes were finally able to focus after waking up (it’s taking longer for them to focus and I shouldn’t begin a story with waking up, as I’m breaking rule number one in prose writing) I found a text from my brother — something simple and direct, like he always is

Happy Birthday — hope you enjoy your day.

He’s understated and quiet and handsome, like our grandfather, the man after whom he was named, but he’s also a jerk and funny and outgoing and tender, like really no one else but him.

And David said Happy Birthday last night because he wants to be the first one to say it, and Jennet was the first to say it this morning in bed, and after Benny wished me a Happy Birthday, he asked “Am I the first one?” And Jack came into bed and didn’t say anything because, I think, he wants things special between me and him and doesn’t want to duplicate a sentiment from someone else.

I am so blessed by God to have these people in my life.

And I talked to a friend whose daughter is having her bat mitzvah, and my friend is finding more meaning in her life because of her faith and I’m thinking, “How comforting to talk to a really intelligent person who believes in God…”

And my mother sent a text message that she ended with “All of our love…” and it meant a lot to me, because she usually writes “luv” instead of the whole word, and I’ve noticed it enough to mention it and to feel it when she types the entire word.

My father has told he he loves me more in the last year than he has the first forty-two years of my life.

And my Aunt Barbara Facebooked a birthday message and I never got to tell her I’m sorry that she lost her husband, my Uncle Bob, who, despite my not being able to keep up with him in any intellectual conversation, really had a lasting positive impact on my life, and I should have spoken with her, but the hours turn into weeks, and now it seems too late for any kind of note to her. There are still so many things I want to say to her about my uncle.

I listened to the new Pearl Jam record in its entirety, made two pots of coffee, watched Capote on Netflix, and talked to myself. I’ve been sad today and angry and happy and I feel so so blessed by God.

When I first started teaching, I was 23, and when you’re 23 you accept things as they are because you’re only fucking 23, so you should shut your goddamn mouth and let the older people talk. When you’re 23 you don’t care because when you’re 23 you think you’re going to live forever.

But today I’m 43, and I am seeing too many things that aren’t being handled properly by my generation, and all of my screaming out isn’t doing anything about it. When you’re 43 and have a wife and three small children and your parents are both retired and live 800 miles away and your brothers have moved on with their lives without you, the smallest things are frightening.

And when you notice every small movement in life — when every second that passes, passes through you in such a way that you feel like you’re inhaling it with the oxygen that keeps you alive — life is immeasurably terrifying.

 

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