I’ll be celebrating my 50th birthday in a few days. And I thought a long time about how I should commemorate spending half a century on planet Earth.
Perhaps I could revel in the fact I’m still active and in pretty decent physical condition, but the days of me being able to consume mass quantities such as an entire pepperoni pizza or a large jar of salsa with tortilla chips without repercussions – i.e., Pepto Bismol tablets, slightly snugger Levi’s – are gone.
I could be proud that I still know every word and can sing along with one of Daryl Hall and John Oates’ deep album cuts that played a couple weekends ago on XM Radio. But now I sometimes struggle remembering where I placed my phone (“I think it’s in the living room. … No? … It’s in the bedroom. … Um, wait. … The garage? … Have I even been the garage today, or this week?”).
Or maybe I could get really creative and try to sum up 50 years of my life in the first two versus and the chorus of Billy Joel’s song “We Didn’t Start The Fire:”
Born in April. Bey clan. Tried to bean his cat with a can.
Introvert. Bookworm. Liked Sesame Street.
Looney Tunes. Star Wars. Baseball cards. Hated stores.
Broke his arm roller skating. Clumsy on his feet.
Atari. Loved to run. School got to be no fun.
Loved to write. Worked nights, newspaper industry.
Marriage. Fatherhood. Left a job that was no good.
Life’s a challenge. It’s all right. I’m happy to be me.
Kirk is turning 50.
Time has gone so fast. Five decades has passed.
Kirk is turning 50.
But I’m content with life. I have my son and wife.
(Hey, Billy, in the very unlikely event this post finds its way to you, I’m available for a collaboration. It’s been 28 years since you last released an album of new material, so it’s time for some new material. Let’s do this!).
My goal in writing about what turning 50 means to me was to take an honest look at myself. The bald guy with the dark circles under his eyes who stares back at me in the bathroom mirror seems like a good Joe, and he really tries to be. But if I had to give someone a no B.S. description of who I am and where I’m at after 50 years, I would say this:
“Thursday’s child has far to go.”
Some of you might recognize that phrase as being part of an old English nursery rhyme called “Monday’s Child,” which is a poem based on the days of the week. I was born at 8:15 a.m. on a Thursday, and if I remember correctly, I was two days past my due date. According to the nursery rhyme, “Tuesday’s child is full of grace.” My mom told me more than once – jokingly, I’d like to believe – that I was anything but gracious for making her wait an extra two days to deliver me.
Now that I think about it, being born on a Thursday always seemed appropriate from the time I was a kid to when I reached my 30s.
Misty, water-colored memories of the way I was.
I’d like to think I was an above-average student through high school, but it seemed to me like I always was a step or two behind the really smart kids. I spent more than 20 years working as a sportswriter for four different daily newspapers. I’d like to think I did something right to make a living in my chosen field all those years, and I wrote some good stories along the way. But I had to work hard at it, and there always were colleagues and writers at other newspaper who wrote better stories and made it look so easy. Vince Lombardi once said perfection is not attainable – not that I bought that. I would chase and catch it, disregarding the fact it is nothing but a snipe hunt.
Meeting and marrying Cindy was the best thing that ever could have happened to me, because she showed me that life doesn’t always have to be perfect to experience true happiness. Having a son like Nolan, who has Autism and is nonverbal, has challenged me both as a parent and a person more than I ever could have imagined. But he’s also made me a better father than I ever thought I could be.
But even with all the good things that have happened in my life, I know I still have far to go.
With Nolan, it means always trying to keep in mind that this world can be a confusing and frightening place to him. It means trying like hell to be patient despite the meltdowns and the fatigue that stems from early-morning wakeups. It means always being his advocate and letting the people who come in contact with him know what a wonderful, intelligent human being my son is.
With Cindy, that means being better about easing the tremendous burden she feels. Behind that optimistic, soft-spoken demeanor is a person who worries about her family. Far too often, I put whatever is bothering me ahead of her troubles and ultimately say something stupid I regret instantly. I oftentimes hint that she would be better off without me. Thankfully for me, she begs to differ and wants to be with me for the long haul.
The average life expectancy for a male living in the United States is 78½ years old, so I know I likely don’t have far to go in terms of my time left on this planet. There always will be a part of me who wants to atone for past sins. Maybe I can never achieve perfection and I’m always going to fall way short of it, but that’s okay.
All I want is to finish my journey – whether it lasts another 50 days or 50 years – the right way. The time I’ve been alive has been pretty damn good so far. But I know it can be even better, and I need to keep going in the right direction to ensure that happens.