Thursday, April 26, 2012

Reflections on 57

When I first thought about it, turning 57 seemed like it would be one of those "insignificant" birthdays.  Let's face it, there are certain numbers that just carry way more gravitas than 57 - birthdays like when you turn 18, or 21, or 30, or 50, or even 60.  But 57?  Besides, I've never been much of a "numbers guy" anyway when it comes to age.  It all just seems so arbitrary.  It's just, well, a number.  You know the cliche': you're only as old as you feel.  It's true, too.  And I just have to say that I feel pretty young!  People say I look young, as well.  Must be those good Vitanza genes.  Tesse made it to 98 and Stella's still going strong at 88.  Making matters worse, it landed on a Thursday (i.e. a workday).    Besides, there's been a good deal of turmoil in my life lately.  You know, planets misaligned, dogs sleeping with cats, acid rain, toxic mud, poison arrows falling from the sky kind of stuff.  I felt like there wasn't going to be much of an opportunity (or desire) to celebrate.

Then, on top of it, the weather turned to shit - misty, rainy, gray, dank, damp, and dark.  So, Frankie was starting to feel like maybe this was going to be one of those blue birthdays.  Poor Frankie.  Alone on his birthday.  No one loves him.  Of course, I knew my family would be calling.  Stella would be on the phone first thing saying, Happy Birthday, Frankie!, with real joy in her heart and voice.  My brother and sister would call, as would some close friends.  But they're SUPPOSED to care.  I felt like something was missing.  A melancholia to match the dreary weather began to descend upon me.  And it lasted until I opened my Facebook home page and the messages began to arrive.  And they came all day and into the night - over 150 of them - from friends, school mates, team mates, acquaintances, co-workers, lovers and other strangers!!  None of them were terribly elaborate - just a simple "happy", "happy", letting me know that people, FRIENDS, were out there and that they cared.  They certainly cared enough to make the effort to let me know that they did, indeed, care.  I am grateful, I am humbled and I will never forget what it means.  It was like a fuel stop to fill up an empty soul.  I filled my tank with your love.  I have felt the love and, in my joy, I hope that it reflects back on each and every one of you, too.

In an interesting footnote, it also came to me that the #57 is, indeed, NOT insignificant, at least in MY life.  When finding out that I was turning 57 today, a friend at work said, oh, just like Heinz catsup! (The labeling on the Heinz Catsup bottle features the claim that 57 different ingredients were used to make it).   We chuckled when  I replied, hey, I hadn't thought of that!  Then it dawned on me: my father used to use that number in one of his corny, word-play jokes.  Whenever he saw a mixed-breed dog, i.e. a mutt, my father would joke, he's no mutt.  He's a special breed.  He's a "Heinzer Special".  Even though we were young, my brother, sister, and I weren't going to fall for that; there's no such breed as a "Heinzer Special, dad!"  My father would always be ready with his comeback, of course there is, just like this dog.  He has 57 other breeds of dog in him - a "Heinzer Special".  He would smile playfully while we all covered our eyes, shook our heads, and just moaned.

So, the number 57 triggered a VERY positive reaction after all  - my love has been returned 150 fold and it triggered a strong recollection of a man whom I loved very much.  Yes, my friends it was a GOOD BIRTHDAY!!!   

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