So amidst the wrapping paper, the new S. U. hooded sweatshirt, the fascinating book of essays on Springsteen by philosophy professors with much too much time on their hands and the uber-cool Red Sox birthday cake–surrounded by my friends and family, I nearly lost it.
I’ve finished up my first half-century and rounded the corner into the home stretch . . . as it were. I can take that. Aging, with the exception of my 29th birthday for some reason, hasn’t really freaked me out. The problem is all those whom I have left behind. There are few magical days on the calendar–my wedding anniversary, Opening Day for the Red Sox–but above all has been January 27th: my birthday.
I was born on the same day as my grandfather. A happy occurrence since I was promptly named after him, escaping what would have been the lifelong stigma of my parent’s preferred name: Cameron. He was also an amazing person–a man who spent his boyhood years on a ranch in Alberta amongst real Cowboys and Indians, a raconteur who could spin a yarn, tell a joke, sing a song and had an unlimited number of ways to say “fart”–in other words, a young boy’s dream grandparent.
My birthday luck was always multiplied, since my father was born on the 31st. Hence, my birthday celebrations were always joint affairs with a great dinner, gifts and a big cake for all three of us. I always asked my father to make his special beef stroganoff–made with real sirloin and bourbon that gets lit and flames up during cooking.
Looking back on these events, I realize that my grandfather and father were my male role models. These are the men I looked to as I grew up, men I drew lessons from and the men from whom I’ve derived a great deal of my personality. From my grandpa, I learned to be unpretentious, to love a good story and to tell a joke. From my father I inherited a love of baseball, kitchen-table political debates and intellectual curiosity.
And, of course, since time moves inexorably along, I’m the only one left. It hardly seems fair. I’m a pale Baby Boomer copy of the folks that went before me. I haven’t faced the hardships or had the triumphs (My grandfather was a salesman during the Great Depression, my father built a thriving private law practice.) I’m not without accomplishment, but my successes all seem muted or anti-climatic in comparison.