I was born August 1, 1942 so today, August 1, 2011 I have completed my 69th year on this planet. I was born at 8 a.m. by caesarian section so at this moment, 9p.m, I am thirteen hours into my seventieth year. That is exciting. It is also very hard to believe. Occasionally I experiment how old I am when I have to find my birth date on one of those lists that pop out when you click the mouse on “year”: I always have to scroll way, way, way down before mine appears right between ’41 and ’43. Even so, it is very hard for me to “feel” seventy. In spite of the fact that the old blond lion ain’t what she used to be, and the joints can be stiff in the morning and downright painful at other times, seventy is a number that makes me giggle the way nonsense makes me giggle. My friend, Kiwi-san, gave me a card this morning with a young girl dancing on the front and inside it said: Happy Birthday to the “Inner” Brianda. That could be either a compliment or an insult: I took it as the first. His present was very special: the first ripe ear of corn from his very own garden (had it for lunch with lots of butter) wrapped in colorful paper. He knows how much I love corn and how fearful I was that it would all ripen and be eaten by the time I got back from my last trip. While we were having coffee, a dear friend came by with a birthday card, hug and a kiss. On the way home, I got two more hugs and since arriving have been receiving congratulations by phone and Skype all day long. I am blessed, and it would seem that the first hours of my seventieth year speak well of the months to come.
However, having said all this about sixty-nine and seventy and 1942, I have to admit that I was RE-BORN barely nineteen plus years ago, to be precise: the 26th of March 1992. That was when I went to Hell, died and was brought back to life a completely different person or, at least, brought back to life to become a completely different person, a person I could never have imagined to be the first time around, with a life I could never even have dreamed of back then. It had never occurred to me in all my fifty years of previous life that I might become someone who neither smokes, nor drinks, nor has sex (at the moment), nor is searching for a new partner, nor depends on anyone else to support her. Someone who experiences true freedom -the freedom to be one’s self- instead of a person demanding that which they haven’t understood in the least. A human who, when asked what she needs or wants, can honestly say from the bottom of her being: “Nothing, thank you… oh, well, if you mean ice-cream, make mine vanilla.”
The becoming part was tough… both times around. The first time, as I was breach, one can presume I wasn’t in any hurry to come into the world. That time it was all about learning the menial tasks like walking on two feet, talking in an understandable fashion, dressing myself in matching or combinable colors (at that time orange and pink and red was an absolute no-no, as was blue and green), eating everything on my plate (because “waste not, want not” and all the starving children in Biafra), going to sleep at the proper hours and doing my bathroom duties in the idem so as to move out of diapers. By the age of six I had most of this down pat and then I began to get it all screwed up and “life” became difficult. Little did I know that this was because more or less at that age I began to think and believe my thoughts. Rather I blamed the fact that I began wetting my bed again at six years old on my brother who managed to be born precisely at that moment in my life; chalked-up the sudden and frequent nightmares on accidently-on-purpose spying on my parent’s lovemaking which was noisy and looked terribly aggressive; was convinced that my father was the cause of my obsessive fantasizing because of all the stories he told me. The Good-Humor Man (anybody remember him?) substituted later on by Dairy Queen and even later by whatever 33 Flavors was called, brought me waistlessness. It seemed that everyone and everything were there just to make my life miserable. That, at least, is what I believed over the next 44 years. Everything that happened or didn’t happen to me had a culprit and if I couldn’t find one out there, then I was it which was even worse. By the time I reached sixteen I was a mess, believing that life was all about getting it right and that I was the only human being who would arrive at the end without having achieved that simple task. So when I found myself, in my fiftieth year of life, barely existing in a self-created form of Hell I died, or rather, checked myself into a Rehab Clinic which is more or less the same thing.
After five weeks (it should have been four -28 days- but I seemed as unwilling as the first time to burst out into the world) the Uterus/Clinic ejected me into Reality and seeing as I had not spent very much time there during the first round, it was a shock that sent me scuttling into the loving, knowledgeable, firm arms of Sara-Light, a Teacher/Therapist who mothered me during the first four years of life in my newly found AA family.
Five months later I was to celebrate what everyone else thought was my 50th birthday and as I think back on that moment today, it is so clear that –if anything- it was a reenactment of my first day of Birth. Allow me to explain. My children (both married at that time) asked me what I would like to do on my birthday and for the first time I didn’t answer “oh nothing really”. Instead, I told them to organize me a party, it had to be a surprise and I didn’t want to know anything about it until I got there that night. They decided it would be at my son’s apartment. I gave them the list of my friend’s telephone numbers and then sat back to control my almost overpowering anguish that they would do it all wrong. It took Sara-Light and all my will power to keep from interfering.
Then, the 1st of August of 1992, at 8p.m, I stepped into my son’s apartment and back fifty years to 1942. The music, the costumes, the decorations… everything mirrored that year. My son –who looks quite a bit like his grandfather- had combed his hair just as my father used to do (with Brylcream and slicked back) and my daughter-in-law did her best to look like my mother despite the different coloring. My daughter, my son-in-law and all my friends were dressed in the fashion of that year.The strangest thing was, however, that from the very moment I walked into the room I realized that the party was not really for me because I couldn’t possibly have any conscious memory of 1942; it was a party celebrating my Birth, but the one who really had the memories was my mother (my father had died a few years before). Neither the music, nor the costumes, nor the look-a-likeness rang any bells in my experience: they were actually celebrating my Birth, not my birthday. My mother of course, had the time of her life. How absolutely symbolical of what I now realize was happening to me at that moment! Isn’t Life fantastic?
So today you will understand when I say that I am seventy going on twenty and that this business of living keeps getting better and better with each time around and I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to have missed the first one.