My friends and I turn 40 this year. I’m ok with this. We have lost some exuberance of youth, but we have also shed the anxiety of beginners. Volatile years finding our way with careers, relationships and new parenthood have given way to a more relaxed confidence. We’ve learned who we are. We’ve become real grownups.
Though I expect to enjoy this decade, turning 40 doesn’t exactly scream CELEBRATION to me. Friends ahead of me have thrown parties or taken trips to mark the occasion. But my great friend Nancy (she of the fantastic chocolate-chip flaxseed banana muffins) has the smartest idea of all: to dedicate time, traveling if necessary, to commune with old friends.
The brilliance of Nancy’s idea is the recognition that the biggest challenge of 40 is not the wrinkles, the uncooperative body shape, or the brain lapses. The hard thing about 40 is that we are increasingly losing our parents’ generation, and with it an integral part of our past. But memories are held also by our longtime friends, and Nancy’s gift to herself this year is an investment in her personal history.
In recent years I have mourned my friends’ parents. But the prospect of losing my own dad feels achingly different. As my friend Lisa Lorraine noted with great wisdom and sadness over her mom’s sudden passing, the death of a parent is a loss of both home and history.
In that sense seeing my dad ill is like watching my childhood home burn, and with it the books I treasured as a child, the beloved toys of memory, the special daydreaming places of my formative years. I am frantic, sounding alarms, calling for help. It may not be enough.
We wouldn’t need faith if life were not challenging. Things look dark. But I am lucky. I have had 40 wonderful years with my dad. I have hope for more. And I have many old friends who also hold my history, as I do for them.
Long-lost childhood pals have called to send their good wishes for my dad. And when we connect it’s just like always, because the kids we were are still at the core of our 40-year-old selves.
Like Nancy, I’m going to celebrate 40 with the people of my heart. I am done thinking about what is next. I want to cherish the years that have been and the lives I’ve shared along the way. I will take stock of my history so I may carry it forward for myself, my friends, my family. And I know that my childhood home will always be with me.
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And to end with a laugh…I just noticed my butt on Lisa Lorraine’s website. Lisa!