I’ve been publishing more poetry lately, something I used to thrive on and enjoy, yet somewhere along the line stopped doing for a spell. This year, I’ve published seven or eight poems in various literary magazines and journals. In one, released just last month and titled “Turning thirty,” I reflected upon the notion that my death had, with the mere changing of a single digit, the passage of but one more day, transitions from tragedy to anomaly. No doubt this seems sort of macabre, but today, seven years after writing that poem, or at least that long after the idea occurred to me to do so, I am again faced squarely with my mortality.
In college, playing basketball on the concrete outdoor courts of East Campus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I could sprain an ankle, cry out in pain, hop up, limp around for a moment, and continue to play the game. Today, a sprained ankle requires crutches for a week. My father, who turns seventy-one in a few days, has lately found colds much harder to recover from, and when I caught one a few days ago I think I’m inclined to agree, though surely not to fully empathize just yet. I have, however, had a nagging calf injury, explained in previous posts, that may prevent me from running my usual half marathon regiment this spring. Aging is an interesting thing. We value it in wine. We regret it in ourselves — at least until we properly articulate the alternative. I find it increasingly difficult to age with grace, to make the changes in diet and lifestyle I ought, and to mature from the angry young man I once was to a less angry, hopefully more efficacious youngish man. A butterfly I am not.
This cold I have kept me home from school yesterday, and probably ought to do the same today, though as a dad I have to be more sparing with sick leave lest my children become ill. One might think staying home from school on one’s birthday seems ideal, but I was bored out of my mind, taking the requisite recovery naps and doing some work on my laptop as I felt able. I made a deep crock of chili and snacked on it all day, turning the rest into dinner and leftovers last night. Perhaps the greatest disappointment was the fact that my plans to imbibe wine from the vintage of my advent had been thwarted by pragmatic considerations, the reality that sickness had blunted the senses required for enjoying such things, my throat sore and nose running, my eyes nevertheless capable of gazing upon a 1981 Duckhorn Cabernet Sauvignon I had been patiently waiting months to open. Hell, what’s another year? I asked myself, and spent the rest of the day pulling generic DayQuil out of a plastic bottle.
The Best Choice Daytime Cold & Flu Relief, N.V., is an ironically named amalgamation of textures and flavors. If you can forgive it the implication that you somehow have a choice about any of this, the nuclear orange liquid is nearly the consistency of honey in the mouth, flirting shamelessly between cheap artificial orange notes, anise, and plastic. A regrettably short finish prevents it from lingering as it might upon the palate to provide relief. At $4 a bottle, it is a solid QPR, making the argument that if one is forced to make a choice amongst similar products, it is indeed the best one.
We have reservations at our favorite restaurant tonight, V. Mertz, something I had been looking forward to for quite some time, yet Sonja seems to be faring worse than I am and it looked like little Zooey might have started to catch something yesterday as well. I hate to think it, but we may end up canceling. I suppose it is possible to mark the passage of another year without celebrating it over a nice dinner, though yesterday was so utterly anticlimactic that I’ll admit I do rather long for something a little more. I’ll end with the memory of Titus when I came in the door last night after picking the kids up at daycare, looking sheepishly up at me with his cow eyes, his mom prompting him from his side: “Go ahead, you can do it,” unit he eventually sang part of “Happy birthday” to me. It was sweet. That was definitely the best present I could have received, and I love the idea that maybe next year he and Zooey will sing a duet.
Cheers to get older, and to learning to age with grace,