There’s is a saying I like to use:

“Age is nothing but a number, but it is an accurate way to tell how old you are.”

In a week’s time my number is going to change, and do so in a big way. The four at the front of my age becomes a five. I will officially hit the half-century. I keep getting told I don’t look that old, but these days I sure do feel it.

I am going to spend my birthday doing things I love to do, which is kind of the trend when it comes to birthdays for me.

It didn’t start that way, then again, when you are little you don’t get to have much of a choice of anything. I remember cake when I turned 5.

I remember getting cake with only a single candle when I was seven.

Sometime around 10 or 11, I got a surprise birthday party. It was weird. Teacher conferences were going on, and we had a half-day at school. My brother and a neighborhood friend invited me over to the friend’s house to play some. Then, there was a call that said I needed to come home. I should have known something up when our front lawn was filled with bikes. The surprise happened, and I ran a half block away in shock.

When I turned 17, our football team had a State Football Semi-final. We won the game in the freezing cold. To celebrate, the Seniors through me fully clothed into the shower … so, freezing, riding a bus, Happy Birthday.

When I turned 18, I got another surprise. I was performing in the musical Oliver (I played the guy that wouldn’t let Oliver have more food). The musical included a few more numbers and scenes than the movie, but my role was limited. Early on, buried in some of the props on stage, I saw stickers with a cartoonish characture of me wishing me happy birthday. As the show continued, some of the other actors would come onto the stage with the same sticker positioned like a badge. By the time the curtain call came, everyone was wearing one … even me.

You would think that I would have had a heck of a party when I turned 21. Well, no. I watched some TV and hung out with my roommate in my room. I actually got stood up by some guys who promised to take me out, but that didn’t bug me. I got a call the night before that some other friends were watching a Houghton, Michigan bar legend perform a set. I walked in about 11:30pm, and after some pressure from my friends, I ordered a drink. Some other folks I knew were sitting at the bar, and questioned if I was old enough. The bartender overheard them and decided to card me. I showed him my card, after a thought or two he said, “By the time I call the police, you will be legal.” The guys at the bar got the story from the bartender, and the next thing I know they kept setting me up with crazy shots.

After college, I got into the habit of treating myself at birthdays. Usually, take myself to dinner, watch a movie, something like that. When I turned 27, my birthday came up midweek, and I wasn’t ready to call it a night. I was living in Milwaukee and stopped by my local watering hole. Only the bartender was there, a good friend, and a fun drinking buddy. On the TV was one of my favorite movies, The Fifth Element, and together we watched and built up a lifetime of inside jokes over MultiPass and Big Batta Boom.

My 30th was pretty quiet. I just moved to Wichita, and was still trying to make friends. The closest to a party that I had was a group party, as three of us were all turning 30 in the same month.

Usually, my birthday landed in an up or a down day. I got a lot of elections on my birthday, which sucks. I also get to judge marching bands on my birthday, or travel to a show, or something like that.

When I turned 40, I had what I considered my best birthday ever. I judged the Mid States Band Association Finals competition in Kings Mills, OH. The group I was judging with were some of my favorite people from that community. The bands were extraordinary. I really told no one there that it was my birthday, because it didn’t matter. I was happy. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate.

Next Friday, I celebrate my 50th Birthday, and like I mentioned before, I am going to spend it doing something I want to do. It turns out, the New Jersey Devils NHL team is in Los Angeles to play the Kings. I rented a suite. I offered up tickets to any and all friends that wanted to come in for the game. Most are JPLers. My brother and sister-in-law are flying in, as well as my old friend Jeremy Phillips. I’m actually handling most of the cost of the game, not because I have to but because I want to. As I keep saying “It’s my party, and I get to do what I want.”

Then again, Age is just a number … and a reason to party.


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