Birthday

It’s my birthday this week. 

Sixty-seven years old. 

Yeah, I know. Time flies. 

It seems like a long time and in a way, it is. The first few years of my life, we lived in a tiny little house without running water. One of my earliest memories is walking the fifty yards to my grandparents' house with my father to take a shower in their basement. I must have been about three. I don’t remember being too impressed, but for my farmer father, a hot shower at the end of the day instead of washing up in a tin bathtub filled with a bucket must have felt like quite a treat. 

It was a different world then. The year I was born, three of my wonderful grandchildren would not have been allowed to attend the school of their choice, and in many places the law said they needed to ride in the back of the bus. 

That’s a much bigger change than not needing to pee in an outhouse. 

After Grandma and Grandpa got a house in town, we moved from the little house into the big house, complete with plumbing. When I was a teenager, my dad built on an addition, which gave him a little alcove for an office and a bathroom just for my mother. In my late twenties, the old house came down and was replaced by a brand-new one that had a fireplace and an actual dining room. 

Fancy. 

Remember that TV show, “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous?” I’ve always thought it was the beginning of a very bad trend. If someone had seen the five of us crammed together in the little house with no running water and three kids sharing one bedroom, they would have thought we were poor. Maybe we were, but we didn’t know it. 

We didn’t know it. There was no massive media industry rubbing our noses in the fact that we didn’t have as much some people. 

When I was small, my dad was the one who read to me. He was a busy guy, so he’d multitask. Instead of children’s books, he read out loud the books he wanted to read. I knew Hemingway and Kipling long before I ever heard of Dr. Seuss. 

One story that stuck with me over the years was by Kipling, titled, “The Miracle of Puran Bhagat.” You don’t need to care what the whole tale is about, just the one line that goes, “...twenty years a student, twenty years a warrior, twenty years the head of a household.” 

What I took from the story was that life isn’t just a long linear procession, a sad drudge of one identical day after another. Every now and then it’s okay, maybe even expected, to just become a different person, to take a swing at something completely different. 

I farmed for thirty years. I’ve been a writer for twenty-five years, a county commissioner for seventeen.  I’ve been a father for almost forty-five years, a husband for forty-seven and a son for sixty-seven. 

That’s a lot of roles and expectations, especially considering I left out some others. If a truck hit me tomorrow, I’d have no complaints. 

Then there’s the alternative. I’m not going to complain about getting older – I could name a dozen people, friends and relatives, people I cherished, who didn’t have a chance to feel the stiff joints and aching muscles, the limitations and losses of advancing age. A moment thinking about it will cut down on whining. If I do happen to live another thirty years, I’d better eat my bran and do more stretching exercises. 

So, I’m okay no matter which way the road turns. But I’m very curious to see what the path is going to look like. 

Copyright Brent Olson 2021