Still here

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Creative Commons Birthday Cake and Candles, by D Sharon Pruitt on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons

I’m 43 today. I don’t have any mental picture or scrawled extrapolation of what I once imagined myself like at 43, because as I’ve said here before, I’m not much of a long-range planner. When I was ten years old and visited New York City for the first time (graffiti’d trains and all) I decided I would live here some day. And now I’ve been living here for – incredibly – almost 17 years. After all that time, I have yet to generate another life dream that is remotely attainable.

If 4 a.m. is “the hour of 30 year olds,” according to Wisława Szymborska, what is the hour of 43 year olds? I’ll venture to say… maybe 5:45 a.m. Just too early for waking up without great pain, though you can remember when you used to get up at all hours for babies, or once in a great while, pre-kids, to run a road race. (My running life – now that seems like ancient history.)

Last night I was up at 4:15 and it took me a while to get back to sleep (if I even managed). I listened to the upstairs neighbor snoring. I wondered if Land’s End was going to drop their prices any more before I buy Young A some new snow pants. I tried to think of nice things like waking up to breakfast on a tray. I tried to think of what I’d write in my “birthday manifesto,” something I have been writing in my journal as long as I can remember.

But all of these things were eclipsed by the unknowable (until January 5th) thing, which is hovering over me like a giant anvil that could squash me flat like a cartoon character. It doesn’t seem to be there during the day. It comes at night, when all is quiet except for snores and stray wails of sirens and the intermittent blast of the ferry horn. I wouldn’t call it fear, sadness, or anger I feel, because there’s this sense of not knowing what I will need to respond to when I get the news. The blank to be filled in. An anxious blank.

But that’s over for today. From the kitchen I hear J puttering, the cheerful noises of impending breakfast, Young A having senseless tantrums and (maybe) helping a little, Young J reading aloud from Tintin with great expressiveness. In this waking world nothing is amiss, and I have to go with that.

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