So, my 36th birthday has come and gone--way gone, now that it's well past 2 am on Dec. 21. All month, people have asked whether Dec. 20, 2009, would be a "landmark" birthday for me--they probably thought I was turning 40. Well, most people wouldn't think of 36 as a landmark. But I do.
I think of every birthday as a landmark birthday. This year, I learned the hard way what I already knew but never liked to think about: Not everybody makes it to 36. To my memory--and it did happen before I was born--my uncle died of a heart attack at 36. And then there was Derek, whose death is still completely incomprehensible to me and hasn't yet become real in my mind. He didn't make it to my current age. I miss him terribly.
Lots of people don't get 36 years on this celestial orb, of course, but I did--and I'm hoping to have quite a few more. I can't believe how blessed I am. I have a beautiful wife, amazing friends and a fantastic place to live. I have a steady job in a time of great uncertainty for many workers, and I have family that loves me and parents and in-laws who are there for me when I need them. I have three nieces and two nephews and another nephew on the way, and they couldn't possibly bring me more joy.
My Facebook page--which I've largely been ignoring lately (sorry, Facebook friends)--was full of birthday wishes today. I was overwhelmed, really. There's an old hymn that we used to sing in church when I was a kid that had a memorable refrain: "Count your many blessings; name them one by one." Well, I can't count that high (and that's not just because I'm bad at math, which I am). I'm blessed beyond anything I can comprehend.
It snowed on my birthday again this year, and I didn't mind. Late last night, my lovely wife and I turned out all the lights in the apartment and opened the blinds to watch the snow fall. It might sound like some schlocky script from a bad holiday TV commercial, but it was a genuinely touching moment. Rare are the times when I stop watching TV, surfing the Web or (these days) playing Wii long enough to really count my blessings, or at least think about them. I should do it more often. I've had more than my share in the last 36 years. So, here's to another landmark birthday, and I offer my sincere thanks and love to everybody who helped me get here.