Ae Young, my wife of 16 years, is going to be the first of the two of us to reach the 5th decade of life on this bountiful round orb that is God’s Green Earth (not sure where that came from, but there it is. So you have it). We are typically pretty low key about our birthday and anniversary celebrations. I have never forgotten any or not marked the occasion with some sort of gift and the requisite ancillary celebratory maneuverings (cake, flowers, etc.) because I do find value in acknowledging how important she is to me (lay off you romantics, I let her know every day, sheesh), but we don’t ever make a big production out of anything. That being said, I felt it was important to “emphasize” this birthday in my own subdued manner.
To serve the materialistic needs I had already bought her a new watch via the rural American’s mercantile messiah, oh glorious Amazon. Not sure what I ever did without online shopping. I get really tired of having to go to stores and talk to people who are either incompetent, apathetic or a frustrating conglomeration of both. Anywho, the package came ahead of schedule and I gave her the option for the early reveal. For which she opted. And I will say she was quite happy with the choice (she had been dropping hints).
Crass materialist needs having been served, I also needed to arrange the ancillary (ok, that’s from a man’s point of view, I’m sure a woman would never consider flowers as ancillary) tokens of love. So I ventured to the corner baker and florist to arrange the baking and the, um floristing (40 roses, red) Speaking of which, the baker (or would you call a woman a bakess? bakestress? mistress of the oven?) was left speechless for at least 30 seconds of which was occupied with focused staring at my forehead while she tried to process the request for “Happy 22nd Anniversary of your 18th Birthday” on a cake. (btw, that’s what we’re calling the “you know what” so leave it alone)
While I don’t fancy that she has had the specific request before, certainly it’s not the most outrageous request she ever received and it’s not like I asked her to write the message in sanskrit. I didn’t think about the size constraints considering it’s an eight inch cake (for the two of us and the dogs) until I was driving home. I guess I’ll find out how good she is at small fonts on Thursday. There might be some quick scrambling to the WalMart bakery if my request doesn’t turn out as hoped for.
As I had discussed with a friend at work, turning 40 is a strange thing (I’m still 9 months away) From a numerical standpoint it seems significant, but I’m certain that neither Ae Young nor I feels as if we’re getting much older. The only time I really notice my age is when someone younger makes a joke or points it out otherwise. Or when I’m doing a physical exam on a patient who wasn’t born when I joined the Army. That was a bit of a blow to the ol’ solar plexus when it happened earlier this year.
Another element of confusion is that I still enjoy music, movies, books, video games and other forms of entertainment that might be focused on people in their twenties or even younger. I have long since given up trying to act a certain age or to filter my hobbies or pasttimes based on my social standing, age, position in life, etc. Ae Young and I still like watching movies like Shrek or the Incredibles along with all the independent films and less family friendly (not porn, you perv, I mean mature themes) material we also watch. We don’t draw a distinction based on what the intended audience of the material is. We either like it or we don’t. The result being that we can have fun going to a classical recital, a football game, a theme park, an art museum (I threw the last one in, really we’re more natural science & history museum types), you name it. Age seems more important to how others are interpreting us as opposed to how we perceive ourselves. That being said, I do think it’s important to take a moment to make a reckoning of where we stand in our lives and what this moment in time means.
Ae Young has been a breast cancer survivor for over 9 years now. The initial estimates of her survival (based on the type of cancer she had) were at 80% for 5 years and 50% for 10 years. She had just had an essentially complete body MRI through the Women’s Breast Imaging Center in Lawton, Oklahoma in 2005 and the results were completely negative for any sort of recurrence or new growth. I know she thinks about it more often than I do, but I don’t know exactly how often that is. I don’t ever forget about it, but I have to admit that I’m pretty optimistic since she has made it this far without any apparent recurrence. I think the very aggressive surgery and chemotheraphy might have done its job as intended.
From an external standpoint there’s really nothing to indicate it ever happened. Most people never realize or expect that she could have not only gone through the ordeal, but that it happened almost 10 years ago when she was barely into her 30s. I know it has led to us to appreciate every day that we have, and we both realize how important it is to do something today that will mean something tomorrow (or in the future).
While we both have different belief systems, I know we both appreciate that our lives are a gift that should be used to its utmost potential.