Wednesday, November 01, 2006

November 1, 2006 - The Big 5-0

Several days ago, in a quiet way, Claire and I celebrated my 50th birthday. The actual day was October 28th. I was up at our Adirondack camp (vacation cabin) near Jay, New York. I’d been up there for a week of study leave, writing furiously, as the deadline for my latest book, the third and final installment of the Lectionary Preaching Workbook series, approaches.

I didn’t bolt out of town to avoid a big birthday celebration. Really. It’s just that last week was the only possible week I could get away, this fall. It was Reading Week at New Brunswick Theological Seminary, so I didn’t have to teach my weekly, Thursday-evening course.

On my birthday, Claire rode up to join me, taking the Amtrak train to Plattsburgh, New York. As I met her at the classic, Victorian rail station, I was surprised at how few people got off the train – no more than 4 or 5 individuals. This is no out-of-the-way spur, I thought to myself. It’s the Amtrak main line between New York and Montreal. Claire’s was the only train of the day connecting those two major cities, and it was more than two hours late (equipment problems). It reminded me of how we’ve let our nation’s once-mighty passenger rail system slip into near-oblivion.

So, if you want to know how I spent my 50th birthday, at least part of the time I was waiting for a train. I have to admit that was better than the earlier part of the afternoon, though, which I spent in a dentist’s chair. I’d lost a temporary crown the evening before, and was fortunate, indeed, to find a wonderful dentist, Dr. Michael O’Connor, who agreed to open up his Plattsburgh office on a Saturday morning, even though I’m not one of his patients.

The irony of that experience wasn’t lost on me. It was my fiftieth birthday, and my teeth were falling out. Literally. Tempus fugit.

It was good to see Claire, though. After driving back to our little house, we went out for a nice birthday dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, overlooking the rushing rapids of the AuSable River. The next day we enjoyed some quiet times, watching the snowflakes swirl (thankfully, they didn’t stick; it was still a little too warm for that). At one point, we were treated to the rare sight of a doe and a faun, foraging for food just outside our window.

How do I feel about turning 50? To be perfectly honest, it seems kind of anti-climactic. The sturm und drang of my cancer experience overshadows any piddling anxiety I might otherwise have felt, concerning this milestone birthday.

I’m not upset about turning 50. In fact, I’m glad I’ve made it this far. I was thankful for a quiet day, in one of my favorite spots, with my best girl by my side.

Claire and I are talking about throwing a bigger 50th birthday party, for both of us (she passed that milestone herself, in July). That party will do double duty as a belated end-of-chemo celebration for me, and also to commemorate Claire’s 15th anniversary of ordination as a minister. We’ll probably plan that celebration sometime later this month, if we can find a date that works.

Milestone birthdays are significant events, for most people – but maybe less so, for cancer survivors. For us, any healthy day is a good day.


Anonymous said...

I still say you BOLTED on your birthday!! You probably convinced New Brunswick Seminary to arrange their reading week that way!!

Robin ;)

Anonymous said...

Carlos, Since I don't have your email I will contact you this way. The occasion is the 5 year visit with my surgeon this afternoon, after my prostatectomy surgery for prostate cancer. Actually, I was to have visits every six months, but a year ago he said I could wait a full year since my PSA remained at 0.0. So today he declared my cancer free. Reading you blog makes me feel guilty, hardly like a cancer survivor. It was just too easy, but of course I nonetheless thank the Lord for that. Actually, I am going full speed. I have an article that came out in the fall issue of the AR&LW Newsletter. I would love to send you a copy if you send me your email address. Mine is

Actually that won't be for long. In two weeks we are "coming back home," moving to Princeton, to the Princeton Windrows retirement community: 2 Birchwood Court, Princeton, 08540. I need to be close to that library! and Doreen can hardly wait! And then there will be a new email and new telephone number. I'll let you know. Of course, also let me know when and if you receive this!!

One more observation. Thanks for the info about getting a driver's license in New Jersey. We will come prepared!

Grace & peace, Arlo