2003-04-03 / Arts & Entertainment

ANDY ROONEY

ANDY ROONEY

©2003 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Forget The Birthday Greetings

We are awash in remembrance. We need some special occasions in our lives. It’s nice to make one out of some anniversary, but eventually, as we accumulate friends over the years and relatives proliferate, there become more special occasions in our lives than we can handle-or even remember.

There are people who never forget a birthday or wedding anniversary and others who never remember one. Some tidy people keep track of these dates in other people’s lives in little black books. They spend more time remembering than is called for by the unimportance of many of these occasions. While it may be fitting to make an event out of a fifth, 10th, 25th or 50th wedding anniversary, those like the sixth, 11th or 43rd would be better forgotten. I resent the rememberers.

My situation is typical. I have a wife who has a birthday, and we were married on a day we never fail to make an annual event of. That’s two special dates I dare not ignore. We have four children, each with a birthday. I’m up to six. Our four children have five children with birthdays. That’s 11. My sister has a birthday every year. Every-one has a few friends whose birthdays they’re expected to remember. Cron-kite’s is Nov. 4. I’m not going to give him anything this year because I’m tired of birthdays-his, mine and everyone else’s.

The idea of making a joyous event out of getting a year older doesn’t make sense. We all hate our age. Not only that, we find it ridiculous and humiliating not to be able to blow out the burgeoning number of candles on a cake. And we shouldn’t be eating cake anyway.

There are a few people who never mention their birthday because they don’t want to call attention to it. This seems more sensible than setting off bells and whistles to proclaim to the world that you’re a year closer to the end of your life. I’m more apt to be depressed than elated on the occasion of mine.

We’ve always tried to soften the blow for people getting old in every way except by ignoring the fact. Old age is called "the golden years," but anyone old enough to fall in that category knows there’s nothing golden about them. Then there’s the commonly accepted notion that wisdom comes with age, as if this made aging an occasion for joy. We all know, however, in our heads if not in our hearts, that this is not true. We are as dumb at 60, 70, 80 or 90 as we were at 21. We may know more but our brain doesn’t work any better, and probably less well, than it ever did. Like the look of our face or the shape of our feet, we’re stuck with the brain we came with and it functions with less and less agility as the years pass.

Annual celebrations probably ought to end the day a child blows out the candles on his or her 12th birthday cake. We leave little monuments of special occasions throughout our lives but there isn’t time to stop and celebrate all of them and we should stop trying.

We ignore some of the most important dates in our lives because they’re not sentimental occasions. Depending on the state we live in, the 15th, 16th, 17th and 21st birthdays are vital because it is on those days we become old enough to marry, drive, vote or drink. They don’t bring funny cards from friends.

What I most want is a couple of weeks during which there are no days to celebrate. That would be worth celebrating.

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