Birthdays can be bittersweet or beautiful, depending on how old you are, what milestones they represent and what lessons are learned.
In my family, Grandpa Moller was born July 4, my sister on Aug. 4, me on Sept. 4 and my dad on Oct. 4.
That meant we were always going to have a birthday party to go to at the start of the month and there’s something statistically significant in all those fours, but I certainly don’t know what.
I turned 62 the other day and received a lot of nice comments from people on Facebook. At least no one said it was fortunate I was getting closer to my demise. It turned out to be a nice day with the family.
The first birthday I can remember and one of the most poignant was when I turned six and my mom and dad threw a party for me.
Some people think that because I grew up in Kirkwood, I was born rich. That may be true today, but it wasn’t in 1957.
I knew even then it was a big deal when my parents hired a pony so we could all take rides around the back yard. It was just about my turn when my personal nemesis hit me on the thumb with a hammer during a game we were all playing.
They put me on the pony and there I was, the birthday boy, screaming my brains out in pain as the fingernail slowly started to slide off.
That was the day I learned to watch out for the nemesis at all times and to handle the injury — no matter how painful — when you’re called on to perform.
The next significant birthday was when I turned 16 and began to drive. The third time I took my dad’s car out, a guy pulled in front of me and I t-boned him. I was supposed to be at the library studying, so the fact it wasn’t my fault didn’t wash with the old man.
The lesson was: If you tell your parents you’re going somewhere, get there and stay unless you give them a call.
When I was 18, I had just entered college and had to register for the draft. That was a daunting proposition, knowing that if I didn’t make my grades, I could be soon carrying an M-16 around Vietnam.
The lesson was: Always make your grades. It could even keep you alive.
When I turned 21, I didn’t go crazy on the night of my birthday. My parents took me to the Big Bevo restaurant, where I had wiener schnitzel a la holstein. That is a German dish of breaded veal cutlet with a fried egg on top that is as close to God as I’ve ever been at a dinner table.
The lesson there was: Go for the wiener schnitzel every chance you get. There are plenty of beers waiting down the line.
Thirty didn’t bother me like I thought it would. I had no grand longing for my youth. Becoming mature turned out to be better than legging out a triple in yet another softball game.
Forty was the birthday that kind of got to me because all I had to do was look down at myself and realize the athlete days were now really over. It only got worse when my staff got me a coffee cup that read “Forty isn’t old; for a tree.”
The lesson there was: Don’t have a staff with smarty-pants sense of humor.
Fifty didn’t bug me as much as I thought it would. I was between jobs and had a great day taking my boys to school and barbecuing. However, I wasn’t pleased to find an invitation to join AARP in the mail that same day.
The lesson there was: If you’re 50 and unemployed, it’s time to get hustling.
Sixty did get to me, because now you’re probably looking at the last one-third of your existence and a lot of things start coming into play.
Is there enough money to retire and do I even want to? When will there be grandchildren? How come there’s a bruise on my knee?
The lesson there was: Don’t turn 60.
At 62, I still have a long way to go, which is probably not good news for some. I’m too young yet to give up the ghost and besides, I’m looking forward to more birthdays.