by Father Mark Goldasich
Did you hear about the three sisters who were well up in years and were starting to slip a little bit? They all lived together in a cozy little house.
One day, one sister called downstairs from the bathroom: “Emilie, I’ve got one leg in the bathtub and the other on the floor. Am I getting in or getting out?”
“Oh, for crying out loud,” said Emilie, as she hobbled up the stairs. She suddenly paused on the landing and said, “Hm, am I going up or coming down?”
The third sister, hearing all of this, said to herself, “Thank goodness, I’m not dingy like those two old birds; knock on wood” — which is just what she did. At that point, she looked up and called out loudly, “Is that the front door or the back door?” (Adapted from a story found in William J. Bausch’s “A World of Stories for Preachers and Teachers.”)
OK, I’m not quite where those three sisters are, but with another birthday looming, I’m gaining on them! Last year, I begged and pleaded my way out of a party. This year, I’m not so lucky. The date for the party is already set . . . and it’s right on my birthday.
I usually prepare for my special day by digging up some of the more memo- rable greetings from years past. Here are a few I unearthed:
• You kept your nose to the grindstone and worked your fingers to the bone . . . (inside) Hope there’s enough of you left to celebrate your birthday.
• At your age, you’re a national treasure . . . (inside) Sadly, Congress has al- located no funds for your maintenance.
• Happy Birthday! When they made you, they broke the mold . . . (inside) Something about “damage control.”
• Well, you’re not exactly young, and you’re not exactly old . . . (inside) You’re just somewhere in that gray area.
• Do you realize that when you were a kid . . . Remote meant a secluded spot off the beaten path; A Video Game was trying to make out what the fuzzy images were on a snowy, blank-and-white 10-inch TV screen; A Cell Phone was what you used to make your one phone call from jail; Digital Computing was counting on your fingers; High Speed Access was an on-ramp to the freeway
. . . And a Birthday was something you actually looked forward to!
Honestly, I still do look forward to my birthday. For me, it’s the start of the holiday season because it always hits close to Thanksgiving (but never on it) and it slides me into this “most wonderful time of the year.”
And what’s so wonderful about turning a year older? Well, for one thing, it means getting an early morning phone call from my mom and hearing her sing “Happy Birthday” to me in Croatian.
A birthday also means there’s a lot more life history to look back on and ponder. When I celebrated my 25th anniversary of ordination a few years back, I received a sort of “This Is Your Life” DVD. I watch that near my birthday to remind me of the many people who loved me, mentored me, inspired me, and encouraged me over these years.
A birthday is a time for gratitude: First of all, that you’re alive to celebrate another year and, secondly, that you have good people around who want to celebrate it with you. Even the sad memories, though, contain a lesson and make me grateful: for obstacles crossed, challenges faced, strengths discovered, and wisdom gained.
A birthday is an excellent excuse to invite friends out for a meal — not only to savor tasty food, but especially to strengthen bonds, catch up on life, discuss dreams and goals, and plan for gatherings in the future.
The older I get, the more determined I am to become more resilient. That means coming to accept and appreciate all of me — my talents and my flaws, my insights and my blind spots, my successes and my failures, my serious and my goofy sides.
And, with this birthday, there is one more very important thing to look forward to: I will now be eligible to order off of the senior menu at IHOP!
Birthdays are a time for song, laughter, play and prayer. It’s a time to step back for a bit and see how God has brought me — often through unexpected twists and turns — to this point in life.
I’ll conclude with a little story told by the preacher Vance Havner about a 90-year-old man who decided to travel around the world. A buddy came to him with great concern and said, “You shouldn’t try a trip like this. I might not see you again.”
“Maybe not,” replied the old guy, suit- case in hand. “You may be dead when I get back!”
Now, that’s the spirit I want to have — knock on wood!
Oh, excuse me, I think someone’s at my door!