Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Time keeps on slippin'

On Saturday night I pulled a muscle in my lower back. I was in a bit of pain, but it was not anything severe; I just was not able to limbo much on Sunday. I hurt my back as I was moving a wooden bench from one room to another, as we were cleaning up after a get-together with friends to celebrate my upcoming birthday. I had moved the bench with no problem before our guests arrived, so either a shift in the earth's gravitational pull changed its weight, or my back was just waiting until after the party to give me its own gift. I immediately started yammering about the back pain to Jennifer, another sign that, yes, indeed, I am one step closer to becoming one of those people who answers someone's "Hello" with a list of the day's ailments.

I turn 32 tomorrow. It's not exactly the same as turning 18 or 21. There's no rite of passage, no wild party, no waking up the next morning on a stranger's bathroom floor and wondering what happened to your pants. Yet while it lacks all those joys of youthful birthdays, it also doesn't have the doom, gloom, and the "I'm gonna be in a senior home soon" feeling that turning... say... 40 does. Thirty-two just sits there, and that's fine with me. Having a kid is enough of a reminder that you're getting old.

One example of that hit me about a week ago, during that visit to my parents' place. We were watching PBS, as people my parents' age tend to do, when an Irish music special came on. This was probably because of the St. Patrick's Day holiday, though I'm guessing it was the sort of thing PBS runs on a regular basis. We watched an old clip of the Clancy Brothers performing on the Ed Sullivan Show. The four men sang on a stage of fake trees and rocks, frozen in their positions as if posing for a sweater catalogue (to see what I mean, here's the clip on YouTube). I believe their sweaters were beige, but it was hard to know for sure since the clip was in glorious black & white. These were, indeed, images from ancient times. As we sat there and watched, we figured that the performance must have happened in the early 1960's. And that's when I had a chilling realization: the early 1960's were about 15 years or so before I was born. Fifteen or so years before Kyle's birth... is the early 1990's! That means, to Kyle, bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews, and R.E.M. will be just as archaic as those relics in sweaters are to us. Ugh.

There once was a time when I was on the good side of these realizations. About seven years ago, a former coworker of mine, who was in his early 40's, found out I was born in 1978. It dawned on him that the movie Star Wars is older than I am. "Don't you find that strange?" he asked. I told him I didn't. After all, it would be like someone asking him if it was strange that he was younger than the telephone. I'm not sure if my answer led to some sort of mid-life crisis, but not too long after that, from what I'm told, this same friend walked into work one day wearing vacation shorts and sandals, and basically told his boss to take his job and shove it. I haven't heard from him since. Today, I'm starting to see myself in his shoes, thinking how strange it is that certain things are older than Kyle. Maybe someday I'll find myself asking him, "Don't you find it strange that you're younger than Snakes on a Plane?"

In the end, though, it's still all about the physical pain. Before Kyle, I would sometimes go through a day without a sore muscle. Now, each morning I could use an ice pack, a back rub, and two shots of morphine just to get out of bed. Between all the picking-up and playing, that kid demands a workout, and, unlike the gym, he'll make you pay if you don't do it. So that's why it was a bit surprising that it was the bench and not my kid who threw out my back on Saturday. Maybe Kyle's just waiting until tomorrow to give me his gift. I just hope I'll be able to get out of bed the morning after.

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