Riding Bitch

The daily musings of a writer.


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Birthdays, Milestones and Peacocks

Anyone who’s lost someone knows how bittersweet birthdays can be. One often feels guilty for having a birthday at all, while our loved one will never have another. Friends and family go out of their way to shower us with attention and make sure we have plans, lest we end up alone. Of course, more often than not, that’s all we really want… to be left alone. 

But then we feel guilty about denying everyone the opportunity to show their love. We might even feel guilty because we know our loved one wouldn’t want us to be alone and moping about. We know he/she would want us to do something special, if not for us then for them.

Today is my birthday. I am now 43 years old, the same age as Kaz when he died (technically, he was 43 years and 6 months old). Soon I will be older than him, which seems very strange indeed. I always thought of him as older and wiser. Actually, no matter how many more birthdays I have, I will always think of him as older and wiser.

Three years ago we had a big party for my 40th. I wore a very tight, red dress and invited all of our closest friends, not just for me, but to see Kaz. He was still doing fairly well then. It was an incredible night, forever immortalized in the many photos that people took. For some, it was the last time they saw him looking like himself.

The next two birthdays (without him) were more subdued. I turned 41 six months after he passed, while sitting in the rain at Occupy Oakland with a friend. The event had started only the day before (October 10, 2011). We sat on the plastic-covered steps of  Frank H. Ogawa Plaza while my friend’s 4 year-old daughter stomped nearby puddles in her red rubber boots. Something about the wet, serious, anonymous yet congenial atmosphere felt appropriate. I was surrounded by people but not required to talk. Tears blended with the rain.

I don’t even remember what I did for 42. I just remember thinking, “This is how old he was when diagnosed.” 

This year I feel stronger, more hopeful and grateful than before. Not coincidentally, the blog is almost 1 year old (on October 18) and my dog’s adoption date is a week after that. When I reflect on this past year, it was a year well-lived, a year of getting my “sea legs” back, so to speak.

The puppy and I lived for a month in Vermont. I made significant progress with the memoir. The blog was Freshly Pressed, and I’ve made many new blogging friends since then. I bought a new car, and drove my father’s Porsche. I got back in the kitchen after almost two years of not cooking. I interviewed for a writer’s gig, and even though I didn’t get it, the interview taught me a lot. I have steadily trained my puppy and hope we can take the Canine Good Citizen test before the end of the year.

The future looks bright as well. I just started a Television Pilot writing class. I’ve hired an editor to cut a new director’s reel. I’m updating my resume and making plans to possibly (finally) move out of Los Angeles. I’m also planning on taking a few months off to finish the memoir. All in all, life is good at the moment. I couldn’t have said that last year, or even six months ago. But life is like that, ever changing, moving and molding, like water.

A friend gave me a birthday card with a peacock on the cover. I’ve been so drawn to this image that I had to look up its symbolism. In doing so, I found this blog post that lists several meanings and their origin.

From The Meaning of Symbols.com: The peacock is a symbol of immortality because the ancients believed that the peacock had flesh that did not decay after death… The peacock naturally replaces his feathers annually; as such, the peacock is also a symbol of renewal.

Renewal. That is what I’m feeling these days. May this year be the Year of the Peacock.

my friend's card

my friend’s card


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What It Means To Be 84

My father turns 84 today. How is he spending his birthday? By driving across country in his new Porsche, naturally. He bought it a couple of months ago on a whim and promptly described the experience of driving it as “like being in Heaven… without dying.”

Hard to argue with that. Though the Porsche has drawn different reactions from the family. Some think it was a huge waste of money – money that would have been better spent on his grandchildren’s college education, or invested in some stable but profit-earning entity, so it could make more money.

Others think, “Wow, good for him. Let him have fun.” The man has worked hard all his life and never been able to treat himself to something this luxurious. He’s lucky to be of sound body and mind, both of which he sarcastically attributes to “clean living.” To his credit, he did quit smoking in his 40s (half his life ago), and has exercised for at least 30 minutes daily ever since, swimming at his local pool. Despite his remarkable tip-top shape, one can sense that The End is on his mind.

“The Grim Reaper keeps calling and getting the wrong number… but one day he’ll get the right number.”

“I’d rather enjoy the Porsche now, then wait till later and have my funeral in a Porsche.”

What does it mean to be 84 years old in America?

It means you were born in 1929.

For the first 16 years of your life, the only President you knew was Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd U.S. President  1933-1945 [photo source: Wikipedia]

Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd U.S. President 1933-1945 [photo source: Wikipedia]

You were a child of the Great Depression. Your parents either stayed rich, starved, or worked several jobs so that you wouldn’t starve.

Your main source of news, sports, and entertainment growing up was the radio.

You were 9 years old when Orson Welles narrated the radio adaptation of H.G. Wells’s novel The War of the Worlds, which suggested that an alien invasion was currently in progress. 

War of The Worlds by Orson Welles [photo source: skepticalteacher.wordpress.com]

War of The Worlds by Orson Welles [photo source: skepticalteacher.wordpress.com]

You can still remember where you were when you heard the news about Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. You were 12 years old.

The USS Arizona burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor [photo source: wikipedia]

The USS Arizona burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor [photo source: wikipedia]

You were a teenager during World War II.

If you joined the service, you were either in the Korean or Vietnam War.

If you’re African American, no matter where you lived, you undoubtedly experienced some measure of Jim Crow laws, whether having to sit in the back of the bus, drinking from a different water fountain, sitting in a different section of a restaurant or movie theater, or being harrassed for marrying a White woman.

I Am a Man march [photo source: legendsofamerica.com]

[photo source: legendsofamerica.com]

You might have chosen to escape such laws by moving to Canada, Bolivia,  Israel, anywhere but the United States until things changed.

You were 32 years old when Yuri Gagarin became the first man to successfully orbit the Earth in 1961.

Yuri Gagarin [photo source: wikipedia]

Yuri Gagarin [photo source: wikipedia]

You remember where you were when John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and Robert Kennedy were assassinated.

You might have had to move back to the States in the 1970’s because your wife got sick and the States had the best healthcare.

You might have stayed married for 25 years, before separating from but not divorcing your wife, so she could remain on your health insurance.

You worked a job you hated until you retired at the age of 67.

You reconciled with your estranged adult children at the age of 70.

You were 79 years old when Barack Obama became the first Black president, a day you never thought you would see in your lifetime.obama

Now, you’re 84 years old with near perfect health, save for the pacemaker, and 100 % of your mental faculties. Your parents, siblings, colleagues and most of your friends are long gone. Of course, you get a Porsche and drive it across country to see your children and grandchildren and this great big country. 

If not now, when?

[Photo source: James Mayfield, roadloans.com]

[Photo source: James Mayfield, roadloans.com]