July 7, 2006

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Marking birthdays: playing them forward

Perhaps readers remember my April column titled “Understanding and retaining a childlike spirit.”

I described reading an A. A. Milne poem about turning 6 to my grandson Sam’s kindergarten class. What I did not share then is this: When introducing the poem, I asked the children how many had already turned 6.

After a show of hands, I told them I was more than 10 times their age, adding, “Do you know how old that is?”

Sam answered, “I know. You’re 69.”

Gently correcting him, I said, “I’m 68, but I will be 69 in July.”

Then together we all counted by 10s, adding eight.

Afterward, on the way to the car, my husband, Paul, and our daughter, Donna, who is Sam’s mother, said, “But you are 69!”

I said, “No, I’m 68. I was born in 1936.”

With that, I realized they were right, and I was wrong. Embarrassed, I suggested returning to Sam’s class to correct the error, but it was cold and snowy so returning home seemed a better idea.

Was this a lapse of memory? It certainly was not purposeful. However, when Sam came home from school, I explained my mistake, apologizing for saying he was wrong. Later, I also wrote a thank-you note to his teacher for the opportunity to interact with the children—and apologized to her, too.

Mine was an inadvertent (subconscious?) error, but naturally I wondered if this indicated a possible subconscious aversion to my turning 70 on July 11.

Truly, I have always been pleased with my birthday at any age, mainly because I was born on my maternal grandfather’s birthday—and he had a twin. Not only that, Grandpa told me that he actually prayed that this would happen even though Mom’s doctor thought I would be a June baby. Grandpa (Anton Huber) and his brother, Charles Huber, were born on July 11, 1885.

Consciously, I am very happy being the age I am. I would not want to go backwards and repeat the mistakes of my younger years. If I could correct them, that’s another matter. However, earthly life only moves forward. As a Catholic Christian, I believe in life after death as promised by Jesus.

Whether turning 7 or 70, most of us celebrate such milestones. Why then do I hope to quietly ease into my new age without any fanfare—and why does this poem by S. Minanel (the first woman editor in the comic book trade) stick in my mind now even though it’s 10 years off?

Maybe at Eighty?

They say wisdom comes with age—
Now I’m in a real jam—
at sixty I should be a sage—
look what a fool I am.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


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