Lame B-Day

Today is my birthday.  As birthdays go, it hasn’t been in the top 5 all-time.  I’m in NYC, and my flight home has been repeatedly — and incrementally– delayed.  Every half hour or so my phone buzzes and another delay is announced, always with “apologies for the inconvenience.”  I’m now looking at a departure time that is more than three hours after the scheduled time, and I’m wondering whether the next announcement will be an outright cancellation.

All in all, it’s not the best way to celebrate a birthday.  Fortunately, birthdays don’t mean that much to me.

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Base 10 Birthday

Later this week I’ll celebrate another birthday.  It will be one of those “decade” birthdays, where the first digit in your age moves up a notch and the last digit in your age cycles to zero again.

Let’s face it:  decade birthdays are somewhat annoying.  Just because our culture long ago settled on a “base 10” number system — presumably because the ancient Egyptians realized that we’ve got ten fingers on our hands, and chose to build mathematics around the concept of ten as the path of least resistance — doesn’t mean there should be any special significance to celebrating a birthday when your new age divided by ten produces a whole number rather than a fraction.  It’s just another year added to the ledger, and the turn of the calendar page doesn’t mean you should feel or act any different.

And yet, everybody treats the “decade” birthdays as if they are some hugely significant milestones.  Sure, 13 and 18 and 21 have their own special elements, but the decade birthdays can actually define you as a person.  Suddenly you’re “in your twenties” or “in your thirties,” and people expect you to behave in a certain way.  And as those decades creep upward, the age-related expectations tend to become even more fixed.

So I’ve got another decade birthday coming up.  So what?  The decimal system doesn’t define me.  In fact, I’m going to pretend that we’ve got a base 8 culture and ignore it.

UJ At 60

Today is my brother Jim’s birthday.  He’s now 60.  60!  It’s hard to believe.

60 probably isn’t quite the milestone that it used to be.   Some people — mostly, people who are about 60 — say that 60 is the new 40.  In UJ’s case, that’s actually pretty accurate.  He’s always had that trim, youthful look that causes people to underestimate his true age, and his hair is still, for the most part, as black as it has always been.  He doesn’t seem to have the wrinkles or creases that are the old age giveaways, either.  Even though he’s my older brother, he looks younger than I do, and that’s been true for a while.

13325437_998034090251689_3557608014176405478_nEven if 60 is the new 40, though, 60 years is a long time.  UJ is part of my earliest memories.  We shared a bedroom in the first house I can remember living in.  We played together all the time, and when we moved from our modest home in Akron proper to the more wide-open suburbs of Bath, where we again shared a room, we were part of the same roving gang of boys that played football and built dams and forts and caught crayfish in the stream that ran through the woods near our house.  We went bowling and to Cleveland Indians Bat Day doubleheaders and on trips to Washington, D.C. and Ocean City, New Jersey and on Sunday drives to the Blue Hole in Castalia, Ohio with Grandma and Grandpa Neal.

We moved to Columbus, and finally we each got our own room.  Our paths began to veer away from each other in other ways, too.  We ran with different crowds in junior high and high school, and went to different colleges, but Jim came to some of our college parties and got to know Kish and my other college friends.  Our careers went in different directions, too, but the sense of connection is still there, and always will be.  When Kish and I moved back to Columbus, Jim and I decided to get season tickets to the Browns.  After Dad died Jim and I — well, mostly Jim — managed Mom’s finances.  Jim and Richard and Russell and I have taken trips together, to Hen Island and New Orleans and to amusement parks across the land, to get in a little Webner male bonding.

Even though we’ve spent countless hours together, I don’t remember ever getting into a fight with Jim, or even a significant argument.  We’ve disagreed about things from time to time, but he’s always been a good brother.

Now Jim is retired, and he hangs out at the pool at his condo with his friends like those in the picture above.  He likes to plays the slots at the Hollywood Casino from time to time, and enjoys an occasional drink made with Captain Morgan spiced rum, and there’s usually a toothpick in his mouth.  He seems to like his life, and I’m happy for him.  It’s just hard for me to believe that he’s 60.

Happy birthday, Jim!

Mom’s Birthday

Today is Mom’s birthday, the first one since she left us almost a year ago.  She would have been 86 today.

00019463It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly a year since Mom’s death, but time has a way of moving on.  We’ve all moved on, too, which is how Mom would have wanted it.  I think of her when one of her sayings or deliberate word choices suddenly pops into my head, or when I remember an incident from when the five little Webners were growing up.  It just demonstrates the many ways in which a mother can touch one of her children and leave a lasting imprint, and the memories are all good ones.

I’d rather think of Mom on her birthday than mark the day she died.  Birthdays are days to celebrate.  In the Webner household of days gone by, birthday were always celebrated with a light, airy angel food cake baked by Gramma Webner and ice cream.  The angel food cake never left the baking pan quite level on top, so when Gramma Webner iced the cake with her trademark frosting she would try to use extra frosting in the tilted down area to make the cake look perfectly level.  That meant one or two slices of the cake got more frosting than the rest.  As kids, we always hoped we would get one of the pieces with the extra icing.  Today, I’m hoping that Mom gets that special slice.

Happy Birthday, Richard!

00019880Richard’s here to celebrate his birthday, which brings back a lot of memories.  Posting this classic birthday party photo from the early ’90s, with little kids galore, seems like a good way to celebrate the occasion.  Little kids know that a birthday is a big deal!

Richard is third from the left in the bottom row, with Russell in the striped shirt next to him.

Once More Into The Same Age Interlude

As of today, for the next two months, I am the same age as my older brother. Of course, when I saw him this afternoon he taunted me about it, as brothers must. It’s an annual rite.

00019762We were born 10 months apart, back in the ’50s during the Baby Boom, when hospitals were overloaded with newborns and every family was growing like crazy. He was the spindly one and I was the beefy porker. He was the well-behaved one who would pose politely for a photo with a smelly goat at a cheap petting zoo, and I was the Curly-lookalike who wrinkled my nose at the odor and wandered away as fast as I could waddle.

Having a brother so close in age has its good points and its bad points. The principal good point is that he went through everything right before I did, and if there were barriers to be broken he did the breaking so I could sail through clear. And, of course, we spent a lot of time together and both grew up cursed with loyalty to Cleveland sports teams, so I had someone to commiserate with when the inevitable sports disasters occurred. The principal bad point is that now virtually everyone thinks that I’m the older brother — and its not even a close question — while skinny, black-haired UJ is the youngster.

So it will be, again, until June 19 when UJ celebrates number 58. I’ll kid him about it when it happens, as brothers must.