Oh, the things I've seen


Somehow, the birds sounded pleasant on Monday. That awful chirping noise every morning that typically causes my eyes to itch and parts of my body to shrivel up more quickly than Burt Reynolds in a tanning bed actually sounded nice to me as I awoke to start my week.

For the first time in a while, the initial placement of my bare foot on the carpet did not strike the corner of my nightstand, and I managed to get through my entire morning shower without gratuitously slathering my eyeballs with soap or forgetting to hang a towel outside the shower door. I did not confuse my deodorant with my toothpaste in a foggy Monday morning haze and there was indeed enough Charmin to squeeze on the roll.

“Hot dog,” I mumbled to myself in a rare wave of Monday morning optimism. This was to be my day.

Was ...

See, somewhere in between putting on my shoes and finding where I tossed my briefcase in celebration Friday evening, the actual day of the year washed across my thinking cap. Yes, it was indeed the eighth day of the eighth month. Symbolism of the matching numbers aside, the significance that Aug. 8 held in my soul was enough to cause those cackling birds to upset my inner workings again, and forced me to grab hold of the kitchen counter to stave off dizziness.

It was my birthday.

Someone once asked me why I became so jaded with my birthday every year. It was a day to celebrate and enjoy, he said, much like we did as children. He then asked me how I had allowed myself to lose that joy in the anniversary of my birth that I had once so relished.

The better question, I retorted, was why were we so excited as kids to turn another year older?

I get the enthusiasm for receiving presents when we’re kids. Heck, I get excited over that now. However, why, when things were so relatively simple back then, were we in such a hurry to get older?

Looking back, I remember being anxious to become a teenager, to get my work permit, to secure a driver’s license, to get into “R” movies and to hit 21 so I could enjoy my Irish whiskey in a bar, rather than smuggling a bottle of my father’s Jameson’s out of the house under my Run DMC World Tour shirt. I guess, now that I’m older, I can relay a little story to you guys about the one time we grabbed one of the bottles we thought my father had marked, filled it back to the alleged mark with Coke after we had finished imbibing and ...

But I digress.

The point, assuming there really is one in this drivel, is that when we are young we aspire to taste the forbidden fruits of those more experienced. As we age, we simply hope the fruit does not rot as it becomes more experienced.

However, that “experience” word is one that gives me pause. For all the creakiness in my knees, the extra trips to the facilities at night and the odd joy I get at watching a child fall while running around like a crazy person on the boardwalk, I often get humbled when I consider the things I’ve experienced in my lifetime, as either a participant or spectator. And, to be honest, I look forward to the things I’m sure to experience in the coming years.

See, I have seen things in my lifetime. I have seen my heart fill with the glories of love, and break with the helplesness of love lost. I have seen my weight go up, my rear drop down and my hair take a complete (and I assure you, quite unexcused) leave of absence.

I have seen the United States win gold in hockey, two space shuttles silence a world with tragedy and towers crumble to the ground, leaving a nation of mourners surrounding their rubble. I have seen Johnny Carson laugh, my beloved Orioles win the World Series and Michael Jackson ... well, I’ve seen Michael Jackson.

I have seen the “police action” in Vietnam end, Iraqi troops driven out of Kuwait and young men and women go off to a controversial current war, armed with the same courage and bravery displayed for generations by our armed forces. I have seen the Pet Rock, Cabbage Patch dolls and pogs.

I have seen this community bond together for a cause like none other in my travels, families reunite on daytime television shows and a nation torn apart at election time, a period that should unite us in the elegant and basic beauty of democracy.

I have seen Elvis sing and Elvis die, John Lennon lift us with artistry and John Lennon sink us in despair with his murder and cheese come right out of a can. And I have seen the sun set over the bay.

I can’t wait to see what happens next.