Today Canada turned 150 years old. Yesterday I turned 64. Tomorrow is Sunday, when I always run a recycled column from my years with the newspaper. I thought this one was appropriate and rather ironic considering how much I would love to be 40 again. Forgive me for running it a day early.
From the Chronicle-Journal, Sunday, July 11, 1993
The day before Canada turned 126, I turned 40 I think we’re both starting to show our maturity.
I was a little depressed at the thought of hitting the first milestone. I told my family I didn’t want any black balloons, no cards with the number 40 on it, no telling friends and neighbors, and no gifts that draw attention to my age. At different times, I consider dying my hair blonde, getting it cut ultra short, plastic surgery, or getting a tattoo, but I felt too old for all of them.
I mentioned after a young looking coworker turned 50 that I, too, would be having a milestone birthday. Someone asked if that meant the half-century as well. I started to be clearer after that. Better everyone knows that I’m 40 then guesses that I’m 50.
Besides, I don’t really mind everyone knowing my age. I just don’t want to know it myself.
When I was a teenager, I felt like every birthday opened new door. Fourteen opened the door to dating. Sixteen opened the door to driving. Eighteen opened the door to university. Nineteen opened the door tonight clubs. Then the doors seemed to get further and further apart. Marriage, graduation, career, motherhood. When I hit 35, I had a disquieting image of doors shutting.
They weren’t as clear, mind you. Just because the door to one opportunity seem to shut for me, did not mean it shut for someone else. It all became very confusing. We’re doors really shutting or was I simply pulling them shut?
Continuing education, science, modern medicine, and societal attitude keep doors open longer than ever. That doesn’t really make things any easier. What’s worse – having a door shut for everyone at the same time, or having my door shut before anyone else’s because I feel limited and they don’t?
My older sister has never paid much attention to doors. Her nick-name was Hot Stuff, from the little devil cartoon. She lives the way she wants to live and still seems 21 at heart. She knew exactly what to do to break me out of my melancholy.
When two of our neighbors had birthdays, one 50 and one 65, pink flamingos appeared on one lawn and a flashing sign on the other. I warned my husband I did not want anything like that in my front yard. He agreed. He even phoned my sister in case she had ideas of her own. She responded characteristically, “Bullshit!”
Sure enough, the morning of June 30, I open the curtains to see balloons, streamers, toilet paper and a handmade sign on the front lawn announcing the date to the world.
I knew it was her as soon as I saw the sign. “Honk, Bonnie’s 40” on one side and “Lordy look who’s 40” on the other. The apostrophes had originally been left off and then were added onto the sign on a small piece of paper that stuck out from the edge.
Later that day she confessed she had led the midnight assault but a friend had actually made the sign. I was stunned to learn that as I lay in bed reading, and uncomfortably aware of the ticking clock on its way to midnight, my sister and five of her friends drove up from Red Rock in a tiny little four-seat car and trashed my front lawn. I had assumed the occasional bump and voice belonged to a neighbor. One may have, since my sister ran short of toilet paper and sent her friend off with three dollars to buy some from our neighbour whose light was still on.
I told her this extravagant act may have saved me from getting a tattoo. I had seriously been considering a small white dove on my ankle.
“Oh don’t do that,” said my sister.
“I probably would have chickened out,” I admitted. Neither of us was fond of needles. “I think it would hurt.”
“Especially so close to the bone,” said my sister. “That really hurts.”
My eyes narrowed. “How do you know?” I asked.
She just grinned and pulled up her pant leg. Hot Stuff the little devil smiled up at us. I heard the sound of a door opening.
In retrospect, my 50th year turned out to be a bigger deal than my 40th. Around that time I cut my hair supershort, dyed it blonde, and got a tattoo. (I honestly keep forgetting I have one because it’s on my upper right back. I know so many people who’ve gone back and back and back get more tattoos but the experience was fulfilling enough for me the one time, thank you very much.)
Yes, more doors closed for me when I started my 50s, but others opened as well. I finalized my divorce, met my new husband, bought a house, and started living the life I’ve always wanted.
Now that I’m heading for the big 65, the doors are getting stiffer and harder to open but every now and then one surprises me. The best one was the door to becoming a grandparent. It was unexpected and glorious. I’m sure there will be other doors that open to new and rewarding paths. Because I have Parkinson’s, they may not be the ones I was expecting but I am sure they will have their own challenges and rewards.
Just like my beautiful country, strong and growing and aiming for the best it can be, I hope to age with grace.