Wissot: Birthday wishes become more important over time
I don’t remember either what I did or felt or wished for on most of my birthdays. I’ve had 74 of them now, so you’d think my memory would be better.
A select few do stand out. When I was 10, two wonderful aunts took me to Radio City Music Hall to see the Rockettes dance in leggy synchronicity. Afterwards, we went to a French restaurant. It was my first foray with foreign foods. I ordered escargot because the name sounded very French and very fancy. I didn’t like them. They tasted like snails.
For my 14th birthday, my mother bought me a cheap clarinet because I had gotten passing grades in eighth grade. Passing grades for me was the equivalent of good grades for everyone else. I’d love to play for you sometime. But once you heard me I’m pretty sure you’d wish I never received passing grades.
I was in college and got wasted in a bar in Iowa City when I turned 21. I was finally legally eligible to drink, but all I remember about that evening is that I spent most of it with my head in a toilet bowl.
On my 40th birthday, my parents took me and my two daughters out to dinner in Denver.
It was the last birthday I spent with both of my parents. My dad died the following spring.
My loving wife was responsible for surprise celebrations on my 50th and 70th birthdays. For the former, she arranged for my mother, daughters, sister, and brother-in-law to greet me at the gate when I stepped off a flight in San Francisco. For the latter, it was a raucous chorus of “Happy Birthday to You” sung by a band of friends in the back room of a Denver restaurant I was tricked into entering.
All of which brings me to my latest birthday celebration a few months ago. It took place in Bentonville, Arkansas, home to the original Walton’ 5&10 store, the incubus for Walmart International.
Alyn and I were there with two close friends to see one of the newest and more celebrated art museums in the world: Crystal Bridges. It is the brainchild of one of the Walton heirs, Ann Walton, and a museum whose cutting edge architecture and impressive collection of paintings and sculpture are worthy of comparison with some of the best art museums in the world.
At dinner one night, Bob and Pat Torvestad, our friends who split time between Little Rock, Arkansas, and Edwards, Colorado, who we met several summers ago at a Bravo Concert, asked me to make a birthday wish before blowing out the candle on a decadent dessert that was a definite detriment to longevity.
It seemed like a reasonable request. Think about something uplifting and move on. But no thoughts came easily to mind. Brain freeze. Finally, it came to me, and I simply wished to be alive a year from now to make the same wish again.
My wish reminded me of a line Keith Olbermann used on the air one night on the “SportsCenter” desk when the cliche about an injured ball player’s recovery being “day to day “ was bandied about.
Olbermann said: “We are all day to day.”
I would never have remembered that line earlier in my life.
But at 74 it had a resonance that I found impossible to ignore.
Jay Wissot is a resident of Denver and Vail. Email him at email@example.com.