On Celebrating Birthdays

At an early age, I learned that birthdays were meant to be celebrated.

Mom always made a really big deal about mine when I was growing up, but that was part of who she is. All year long, she was always stopping at the card shop to pick up birthday cards for friends, family members or anybody whose name was in her little date book.

It wasn’t just Mom, though. I remember a big homemade sign Dad and a few friends (yes, it was big enough he needed help) put in our yard on the occasion of her 50th.

This was, of course, before Facebook, where everybody knows your name, and your birthday. And it only takes a few keystrokes to send along a nice note. (Thanks, by the way, for all those nice wishes today). And it was before you could just call a company and have 50 flamingos planted in the yard overnight. Mom was diligent about going and buying the card, getting the address right, affixing postage and, if it was for a friend’s kid, slipping a few dollar bills inside.

Of course, as an adult, I was too lazy or too busy to pick up Mom’s habit.  She’s never stopped, though, and I’ll bet you there’ll be a lonely card from her in the mailbox today. And when she had her 83rd on Tuesday, she got more than two dozen cards in the mail.  A lot of them were from those kids who got two bucks from her when they turned 11.

For a few years at Tennessee, we had a weird tradition that when it was your birthday, you had to bring in a cake for everybody else in the office.

My kids always get signs in the yard, favorite meals and a break from doing anything they don’t want to do on their big days.

As an adult, I’ve usually celebrated my birthday by not going to work. And after finishing this post, I’m celebrating the rest of the day. I’ve got a solitary bike ride, lunch with Mom, and a racquetball game on the schedule.

There’s no talking me out of it.  OK, if Rick Pitino holds another press conference, I’ll cover it. When I was working for other people, I rarely checked in at the office on the big day, and I’m not starting now.

What’s even more fun is sizing yourself up against the famous who were born around the same time. My fave is my baseball idol, Cal Ripken, Jr., who is four days older than me, but looks a lot older — I’ve still got hair. Sean Penn is 11 days older than me. I’m an age contemporary of David Duchovny, Antonio Banderas and Timothy Hutton. And I share something with Shania Twain, Jack Black and Leann Rimes. But they’re all younger.

This morning I learned, (thanks Facebook) that I share a birthday with Karen Blach Held, who I went to WKU with and who married one of my fraternity brothers. I went to high school with a close friend named Curt Camp, born the same exact day, in the same Sts. Mary and Elizabeth Hospital, and we usually call each other by phone wherever we are. To fellow Facebookers Robyn Cranmer and Trevor Howie — I hope you’re both taking the day off too.

Mark Hebert (9/15/59) and I used to celebrate our birthdays together with a big party, a tradition we should really start again, especially since he’ll be 50 this year. And Monday, I’ll be giving my good friend Cary Stemle a call, born three days after me in 1960.

11 thoughts on “On Celebrating Birthdays

  1. Happy Birthday, Rick! Hope you thoroughly enjoy your day off, and thanks so much for all you do the other 364 days to help keep the ‘Ville rockin’!

  2. Happy B-Day Rick! You will be catching up to me for only a couple of days as my birthday is Sunday; I am also taking the day off. :)

    This is a very popular time for birthdays, wherever I have worked it seems there are a lot of birthdays between 8/25 and 9/1.

  3. Be supremely grateful for the interval of your life. We grew up during a better times.

    We got to witness the turbulent, psychedelic sixties — which, through a child’s eyes, was pretty damn cool.

    In the seventies, we had front-row seats for one of the most compelling stories in American history: the fall of Richard Nixon. Back then, a president could be forced to resign for his unbridled corruption.

    We had sitcoms that actually made us think. We got to see TV pioneers like Norman Lear spearhead social change with All in the Family, and M*A*S*H taught us the human costs of war (a lesson soon forgotten).

    The stars who sparkled through our TVs were bona fide, seasoned talents worth watching — not immature, superficial seekers of fame and fortune or malicious, narcissistic “reality” TV game contestants (one of whom recently killed his wife then hanged himself).

    Our childhoods were healthier and safer. We were more connected to nature because we played and explored outside — in our neighboodhoods and in woodlands nearby. We sharpened social skills because we interacted more face-to-face. We spent more quality time with our families, friends and neighbors.

    We were closer to one another, and we had more real friends.

    We were less fearful without cyber-molesters, meth and terrorist schemes. We didn’t know Mother Earth had recognized us as predators and was plotting our destruction.

    We had much better music. We lived through Woodstock and the Beatles. Rock was more about ideas, ideals and making us think than filling the silence so we wouldn’t have to. Joni Mitchell (who?), the queen of rock ‘n’ roll, and other rock stars were actually poets and painters. From Crosby, Stills & Nash to Stevie Wonder to Elton John, the airwaves transmitted sheer bliss.

    We were undistracted and unaddicted to texting, sexting, video games, celebrity culture and Facebook.

    We had more time to hone real talents, and we communicated — and lived — more meaningfully.

    Good citizenship (civics) was taught in our schools, and even our more capitalistic peers sought to make a greater difference in the world than widening the wealth gap by screwing the poor.

    Our culture continues to devolve. It’s more coarse, shallow, selfish and greedy than ever. We’re drowning in assholes.

    We may die in Shady Pines, but it will be a blissful relief for which I envision being more than ready. Death is a blessing in a world unfit for the living. It’s fast becoming unfit for the loving among us.

    I figure I’ll steal away just about the time the shit really hits the fan.

    Forward-looking kids know they’ll be left with an impossible mess. While they disparage us, they secretly envy the timely splendor of our demise.

    Their inevitable doom shall be our sweet “geezer” revenge!

    Instead of leaving my fortune to kids, I’m going to leave it to NASA’s “Escape from Idiocracy” program because the survival of humankind will depend on their finding another planet to inhabit.

    Another nest to use, abuse and fatally fowl.

    This concludes your birthday geezer-gram.

    Let us pray for aerospacial deliverance.

  4. Happy Birthday, Rick!
    This may sound nuts, but it’s something I’ve been wondering for a long time, and since you are a friend of Mark Hebert, you may know. Does he have a brother named Robbie? I went to Fern Creek Elementary with a Robbie Hebert, and his eyes looked exactly like Mark Hebert’s do. I was born in 1966. I’m not trying to get in contact or anything — I’m just curious.

  5. Steve – thanks for the geezer-gram. Obviously, you should be writing for us. Beth – Mark’s from Fairport, NY and his brother’s name in Kurt. So he’s not your guy.

  6. Thanks for letting me know that, Rick — it’s been driving me crazy for years. You’d be amazed by how much my schoolmate facially looked like Mark Hebert, though — it’s uncanny. At least I know now. Thanks again and have a great birthday!

  7. I’d sing you the “Happy Birthday” song, but the ghosts of the old broads who wrote it would probably haunt you til we shill out 99 cents for the privilege.

  8. Yes, for a couple of weeks Rick is just as old as I am. And yes, we need to rekindle the blowout joint birthday bashes we had in our 20s and 30s. The problem is staying awake past 10.

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