Odd Thoughts: Birthdays go from big to forgettable

Bob Groeneveld ponders birthdays, both important and much, much less so.

Last week I had a birthday.

But I almost forgot.

Thank goodness for Facebook and a hundred other apps and programs that send us endless reminders of important stuff that we used to have to keep in our heads… or forget.

In most cases, forgetting is underrated.

Before Facebook et al, all we had to remind us of our birthdays was either the anticipation of a smashing party or the angst generated from a realization that time was inexorably slipping by.

I haven’t had a birthday that meant much to me in a long time.

That’s not to say that I haven’t appreciated the celebrations and – yes – being the centre of attention for a few hours each year. But truthfully, I’ve forgotten many until days after they happened. And some family member or close friend would remind me with a “belated” wish for a happy birthday.

Only once was a birthday a really, really big deal to me. It was my 29th.The morning came with the dawning of a dark cloud that was my 30th birthday on the horizon.

Sure, when I was a kid I looked forward to birthday parties with cake and funny hats and silly games and all. And my 16th birthday was… well, it was my 16th birthday. Need I say more?

Then 17 was growing up. Not 16 anymore!

Eighteen meant I could vote in the upcoming federal election, and with recent changes in provincial election rules, 19 meant I had a say in who would be my representative in Victoria – the MLA representing Port Alberni and surrounds.

You may scoff, but these days there is far more cynicism about the value of that responsibility, especially among young people. It’s something I don’t fully understand, because practically all my friends were Liberals or Progressive Conservatives or New Democrats or Social Crediters (that was a significant federal party in the 1960s, in fact holding the balance of power in the Lester Pearson minority before Pierre Trudeau led the Liberals to a majority while we were all in our teens).

We couldn’t wait for the opportunity – the responsibility – to fill out our ballots and add them to the nation’s voice.

After 19 came 20. Well, then you’re not a teenager anymore, are you?

Once you clock that 20th birthday, you’re a full-blown adult.

At 21, it became legal to cross the border and take in the dirty movies in Blaine. You’ll have to refer to a previous column to see how that turned out!

Then came the void of 22. It was my first birthday with no significance.

No voting. No dirty movies. No adulthood landmarks. Its only significance was its lack of significance.

Other than the cost of insuring a car dropping dramatically on every young driver’s 25th birthday, there was nothing significant left.

Until 29.

I can’t explain it, but I went into a year-long funk, thinking about the imminent arrival of my 30th birthday. The starting point of the inescapable downhill slide. The beginning of the end.

I imagined looking into a mirror and catching only fleeting glimpses of my life fading into an ever-darkening background.

And when I woke up on my 30th birthday, the depression was over. It was simply all gone.

There wasn’t any rejoicing or anything, just an easy and comfortable acknowledgment that life wasn’t over, and there was plenty left ahead.

And all birthdays became unimportant


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