Welcoming Life’s Milestones

Oh groan. Another birthday, a milestone. Another layer of wrinkles as if life were some sort of onion. Hopefully, no one will remember this year and I’ll slip under the radar. In a world of instant communication and universal slathering of anything by anyone, allowing a milestone to grow smaller in the rear view mirror has become an impossibility.

What an ungrateful sod I am. For someone who’s fought to stay alive and relished every near miss with a sneer and a gallon of sweat, I don’t seem all that thankful.

I am. Facebook and a few others allow me to wallow in momentary limelight without having to put on a coat and tie. Their good wishes are appreciated, especially when I sneak a look at their posts, and wonder why they’ve aged and I haven’t. I still see the cute face or the strong jaws I recall. Fine people then and now, even if we don’t see one another anymore except on the small screen.

What about the other “important” milestones?

How about getting fired for the first time? Ouch. I remember that little milestone of personal achievement, especially like last night, at two in the morning. Young, cocky, and unafraid. The boss was a class A jerk. We all agreed, and yet, I got the sack.

Panic.

Working and paying for school, and not staying ahead of the game, how could he do this to me, and still live with himself? Another job came along, especially after I made up a story about my “layoff.” I will admit to remaining a jerk in a lot of ways over the succeeding, but I did get much better at reading people and learning to check out lines in the sand.

Can losing a friend be a milestone? When Herb and John died, I was simply too young, and besides that was the war. Most of the time, we were invulnerable or scared to death. We drank seabreezes then, light on the canned grapefruit juice and forget the cranberry juice. Fill the glass with clear death, but that was then, this is now.

Much later, Eddie’s passing struck me hard especially hard. We had been pals, in the yesterday sense of the word. He introduced me to his yacht club, and then his dad’s country club. We’d gotten our driver’s licenses together and spent Friday nights in his convertible at the drive-in…restaurant. The movies came on Saturday night. We even snuck out together. The same girl let us feel her bare skin, at different times, of course, all in an effort to find the pathway to growing up. We’d even planned a rafting trip down the Mississippi river after high school, before our freshman year at Penn State. But I moved on before graduation…military kid, and all…and, we did none of those things. I went to a cheaper community college, and he went to Doane. Imagine my surprise when we reconnected decades later and I found out he did the Mississippi, but with another friend.

It didn’t matter. When I called to check in with him on one Thanksgiving and heard he was dead, I mourned. Even his wife hadn’t called to tell me about his passing. Not his first or his second. I’m not stupid, so I know where that put me in his milestone category. Is learning that some friends are simply not the friends we thought we were to them a milestone? Or maybe that’s just growing up, and I hadn’t yet learned. I suppose in too many ways, I still am.

There are as many kinds of milestones as there are people. Check the internet. That’s their list, but these two mean something to me. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that another birthday has a way of peeling back the onionskin of life.
Layers and reflection.

But no worries. If you happen to tear-up when the milestone overtakes you, it’s not you, it’s the damn onion.

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