Happy Birthday to Me

January 26, 2009

If you had asked me when I was 40 years old, “Random, are you going to make it to the age of 65?” I would have said, “Of course not.”My father had died  of a heart attack (his second) before he reached the age of 50, two days after I had stood up to him for the first time in my life. I had high blood pressure;  I had reactions to one of my medications that made me think I was having a heart attack; I figured it was only a matter of time before I keeled over; I figured it was only a matter of time before I ran out of time.

I have been in and out of psychotherapy at various times in my life. On at least three occasions, therapists have looked at me with a very serious expression on their face and said, “Don’t think you are responsible for your father’s death.”

I have replied, “No, I don’t think that.” I have thought, I don’t feel great about the whole experience either.

In any case, yesterday was my 65th birthday. I stopped at the drug store to use their copy machine. I copied my birth certificate and my wife’s birth certificate; We are filling out irritating forms for my tiny pension.

Today will start my last week of working for my employer. I will start collecting social security and my pension. I will turn in the laptop my employer lets me take home. As a birthday present I bought myself a new laptop. I was going to switch to Linux; the computer store was uneasy about trying to run a laptop on Linux; I decided not to be heroic; so I am running it on Windows XP. (I am avoiding going to Vista.) I did decide to stop using Microsoft Office Word; I am writing this on Open Office Write. It’s a little different than MS Word, but close enough for government work as the saying goes, even though I am about to stop doing government work.

The laptop has a fingerprint reader on it. I am shocked and amazed and frightened of trying to use it. I figure it will probably lock me out of my own new computer or lock my wife out. My wife has almost no fingerprints. She says it is because she rubbed off  her fingerprints off by working in offices all her life. I know it is because she comes from another planet. She comes from the same planet as David Rochester, or at least from the same solar system. Her planet is named The Planet of the Chickadees. She and David may be related; she is his long lost sister that he didn’t know he has.

My wife took me out to dinner at a nice restaurant. We listened to Prairie Home Companion this morning. Garrison Keillor told one of his Lake Woebegone stories. It was rather said, about a couple who were brilliant ice skaters but didn’t make the Olympics. He did a funny bit about how people in Lake Woebegone, descendants of Norwegian farmers, won’t give or accept high praise; “Not bad,” or “Pretty good, for you,” is about the most they can handle.

This is pretty much true of my wife. She doesn’t accept praise very well. Besides being from the Planet of the Chickadees, she was also born  in Lake Woebegone, or at least that planet’s version of that mythical town.

After dinner as we drove home I had trouble seeing in the dark because my eyes have cataracts and they are getting worse. She said, “Turn here!”; I yelled at her, “I am turning,” she yelled back, “No you weren’t” We made it home alive after only a couple more snarls.

I checked the phone for messages. There was one message. I listened to it; three people sang “Happy Birthday”; I could distinguish a high pitched voice above the other two, singing “Happy Birthday to you, Grandpa.”

Then we started working on the forms I have to submit for my pension. We yelled at each other about whether or not to apply for the optional COLA. It starts us lower. If we live long enough, we will end higher. Although I am a pessimist, I said yes; although she is an optimist, she said no.

We have been married for 43 years. We yell at each other at least everys other day;  about once a week we have a fight so bad we don’t speak to each other for most of the day. About once a quarter, we have a fight so bad, we think about leaving each other; though we have never gone so far as to talk to a lawyer. (We did visit a marriage counselor several times.)

We said, “We’ll finish the forms in the morning.” We went to bed. At night, I read a book to my wife. (We don’t watch television any more.) Right now I am reading her a book called Little Heathens. It a memoir by a woman who grew up on a farm in Iowa, raised in part by her grandparents, who were very strict and very religious. Our science fiction grandchild  who may be a genius some day is being raised by two mommies who are atheists with the help of two daddies, one of whom was a sperm donor. She visits our little house in the middle sized woods on an island. and looks at our big garden. We want her to know food comes out of the ground not from a shelf in the supermarket.

My wife and I kissed goodnight. We didn’t go to bed mad, though we are both quite mad. Today I am a day older than 65.

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8 Responses to “Happy Birthday to Me”

  1. Average Jane Says:

    Very happy birthday to you, Mr.R.I hope I get to be 65 too..I turned 40 a couple of weeks back. More importantly, I hope I have someone to kiss me goodnight when I turn 65..drat!now I feel all weepy.


  2. Happy Birthday, and Happy Last Week of Work. I confess to some trepidation about how you and Mrs. Random will get along when you are home more often, but I suppose you’ve already thought of that. 43 years is a pretty good track record.

  3. Random Name Says:

    My wife volunteers at the Farmer’s market. I am having lunch today with the President of the Ernst Becker Society. I may volunteer for them.

    Becker was the author of The Denial of Death and Escape from Evil. I am glad I made it safely if crazily to 65. I don’t believe in denying death. (At least twice a day I try to think about my death in a cheerful and accepting manner and to get my affairs in order while there is still time and not leave a mess for the rest of my family to clean up.)

    I think we should pat attention that evil exists and do what we can to reduce it a bit. I didn’t put Random Granddaughter in my will, but perhaps I will tell her that her legacy as a little non-genetically related genius will be to bring peace and love to human kind.

    I hope she will not need to be violent in doing so. As we used to tell her when she was first learning to pet Sylvie (the world’s most lovable cat), “Gently, Gently.”

  4. Pete Says:

    Way to go Mr R! It seems like only yesterday we listend to your rants about bosses, and now you get the last laugh. I admire youre persistence (I know, it was stubborness!) in hanging in there. I will very much miss the stories you tell about your students, though. I hope your volunteer work will bring more stories about the interesting people in the world. Are we going to have an online, virtual party this friday? Complete with virtual cocktails?

  5. truce Says:

    Happy Birthday Mr Random! (Even though a day late)

    I wish you much cake, and singing, and presents and significantly fewer forms and less snarling. 🙂

    *Waves frantically from Australia in hopes of your seeing it*

  6. pandemonic Says:

    I’m sorry I missed your birthday. I’ll do better next year.


  7. See, that’s a great way to stay together: not going to bed mad. Even if you’re mad. Vista really is the devil, isn’t it? Happy belated birthday!!


  8. […] on February 3, 2009 by pandemonic I’ve been busy, but yesterday I noticed this post by Mr. Random, patting himself on the back for surviving yet another […]


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