A Birthday Prompts Questions

The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.

Lucille Ball

I just had another birthday. Birthdays come faster the older you get, which is a scientific fact, and if it isn’t, it should be.

For my birthday, my friend Rick gave me a book called Age Doesn’t Matter Unless You’re a Cheese by Kathryn and Ross Petras.

Rick is someone who, during the pre-Easter fasting season of Lent gives up sarcasm. You’re supposed to give up a guilty pleasure like chocolate or TV or alcohol or something equally habitual.

His “something” is sarcasm.

This is great for me, because it’s now open season to provoke him, knowing that he’s thwarted from firing back one of his usual devastating witticisms.

But since Easter had long passed, I imagined that this book was a dig at my advancing age, full of sarcasm and senior citizen jokes.

Instead, it turned out to be a treasure trove of inspiration and cleverness, like this bit of sage advice from the great stage actress Helen Hayes, who died at 93:

They say stress is a killer. But I think no stress is equally deadly, especially as you get older. If your days seem to slip by without any highs and lows, without some anxieties and pulse-quickening occurrences, you may not be really living.

When my late parents were my age, I looked at them as ancient relics from a time of un-enlightenment. We baby boomers had the answers about everything from raising children to how to look.

Right? Remember the ’70s?


I never actually believed that one day I would be my parents — a reality that manifests every time I look in the mirror.

Sometimes I wish a time machine could deliver them back at my same age so we could be peers. We would talk over the news of the day, laugh at our aches and pains, and nod with understanding.

We’d “get” each other. How awesome would that be?!

Fantasies aside, Mom and Dad left me with a valuable legacy: to embrace life to its fullest. Even when Daddy was 84 and near death from throat cancer, he insisted on going one last time to Vegas.

And after moving Mother at age 87 from her Texas home of 60 years, she delighted at her new environment, marveling at each dramatic change of Colorado seasons.

Like hairlines, some people begin to recede as they age. They forsake new dreams for the easy sameness of routine and space, giving up the hope of ever getting younger.

But we can, you know, get younger. It’s an attitude. I try to “absorb youth,” not from an expensive face serum, but from the young people around me.

I finally have shed my fear of hashtags and Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat, and am learning from their generation instead of giving them the old “church lady” eyebrow and “you kids just don’t carry on conversations like we used to.”

What I’ve learned so far in my years on Earth is that change is inevitable. Embrace it. Even create it. But for God’s sake, don’t fear it. Like a roller coaster, life isn’t worth much without the twists and turns and steep falls that get your heart racing. You survive, and that’s a big lesson.

At this age, I find I’m the same age I always was: the age I feel. I don’t look back wistfully or look forward wishfully, but I do keep hope alive.

Hoping for a shot at Dancing with the Stars keeps me practicing in my kitchen.

Plans for reality show stardom aside, age brings on more curiosity about heaven and hell. Where will I go after my metaphoric final dance episode?

Writer Gerald Durrell once said, “The importance of death is somewhat ephemeral, as no one has faxed back a report yet.”

Which is not exactly true. The Bible is full of such reports.

And, in this millennium, two men — Bill Wiese, who spent 23 minutes in hell, and Don Piper, who spent 90 minutes in heaven — with best-selling books by the same names, give eyewitness answers of the afterlife.

I’ve heard Piper speak before, and want what he experienced. Wiese’s experience is not in my game plan.

Meanwhile, thanks, Rick, for the book, which reminds me that I am not a cheese, but if I was, I’d definitely be #Gouda.

(For you old people, that was a hashtag.)