Friday, October 16, 2009

Birthday Reverie

“Let me, if I may, be ever welcomed to my room in winter by a glowing hearth, in summer day by a vase of flowers; if I may not, let me then think how nice they would be, and bury myself in my work. I do not think that the road to contentment lies in despising what we have not got. Let us acknowledge all good, all delight that the world holds, and be content without it.”
--George Macdonald

I have been looking forward to my 74th birthday about as much as I have been looking forward to swine flu. One is inevitable—thank God the other is not. But it wasn’t really so bad, turning 74. I survived—but it was more than survival. My wife and I ate out at my favorite breakfast place downtown—eating all those wonderful carbs and cholesterol inducing delicacies. Things, of course which I cannot eat every day. Happy Birthday to me!

We spent the day sloshing through rain shopping and just enjoying being together. In fact we stayed out so long we went long past lunch and got home about 3:30 in the afternoon.And the phone began to ring. And the cards were stuffed in my mailbox. And here and there was a package. My son left word on the answering machine and I called him back late because the phone did not stop ringing. My daughter called wishing me a happy, happy day. And there were calls from my two granddaughters reminding me how lucky I was to have them as granddaughters. They were not too far off the mark. My baby brother (age 70) called to rag me about being the oldest. There were calls from friends that have meant so much through the years.

And then I opened the presents that people I loved had selected with care. The cards came from all over. A beautiful card from a couple in South Carolina that always remember my birthday. A funny card from a great friend we discovered in Memphis. She never forgets. One friend sent two cards--two weeks apart. She forgot but she doubled my fun with her kind words. There were those new funny noise-making cards that crack you up and great uproarious words on other cards carefully selected.

I finally quit talking to friend after friend about eleven PM. And the emotion of the whole day just crept up on me. I was moved, terribly by all those that remembered. Their notes and their calls stirred the memories of other times and occasions. And I sat there whispering a thanks for so many and so much.

My life, like everyone else’s has been an up and down, in and out—twisting journey. There have been moments of enormous disappointment and great grief. But these have been few and far between—for my life has been blessed at every point. From those parents, who out of their poverty gave me a great richness that stays with me until this very day. And that other great cloud of witnesses. Carlyle Marney called them “our balcony people.” The people who have stood in our balconies and cheered us on every step of the race.

My architect-poet friend, Andrew said it so well:

“Thank you Lord
for friends who honor us
with small gifts of tenderness

Gifts so freely given
that they cost the giver
Almost nothing
But which are
Infinite value
to those who receive them."

Looking back over the terrain the only thing I can say is thanks be to God!

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