I celebrated my 50th birthday this past week, and I have to say that it was one of the best birthdays I've ever had. My family and friends went out of their way to make it very special. I had two of my best friends from high school visit and spend the night with me. We talked about old times until 3:00 AM, and then picked up right where we left off when we got up the next day. It was so nice to talk about the past and relive the times when our lives were so much easier (too bad we didn't appreciate then just how easy it was). My family and some of my friends surprised me with a party the next night, and I was genuinely surprised - I had no idea they were planning anything. My class gave me a party at school along with gifts, flowers, and cards. In all I had three different birthday cakes - and no I didn't eat them all myself - I shared! I couldn't have asked for anything more, and it really made me realize and appreciate who and what I have in my life.
If anyone had asked me 25 years ago when I was just starting out as a wife, mother, and teacher where I would be at 50, I don't know how I would have answered. But I feel pretty sure I would have never predicted where I actually am now. I never thought I'd be a grandmother before I was 50. I wouldn't have predicted that at 50 I'd be a college student again. I certainly in my worst nightmare wouldn't have dreamed I'd be a widow at 50. But here I am celebrating 50 years and all of those are true. The grandmother part is wonderful. I wouldn't trade that role for anything. The student part, while not so great right now, will be worth it when I finish and have my specialist's degree. It's the widow part that I could definitely do without and would love to be able to change. Unfortunately that's not possible.
The question now is where do I go from here? I guess you could say I'm content with my life right now. I don't know if I would say that I'm necessarily happy, but I'm not sad either. I've just accepted the way things are. I stay very busy with work, classes, family, and friends. I really don't have time for anything else. But I won't be a teacher forever - I can actually retire in just under four years. I definitely won't be a college student forever - this is my last degree, and I'll be finished with it in less than a year. I'll always be a mother and a grandmother, but Trey has his own life now, and I know as Emily grows up she'll need her Nana less and less.
So what do I want for the rest of my life? Do I want a relationship sometime in the future? I really don't know. Sometimes I think yes, it would be nice to have companionship, someone to talk to and do things with. Sometimes I think no, I'm not sure it's worth the effort it takes to make a relationship work. A part of me still loves Eddie and always will. But his alcoholism and suicide had an effect on me that I'll never completely get over. In some ways the effect has been good - I'm stronger now than I ever was before. I'm a survivor, and I know I can make it on my own. On the negative side what Eddie put me through has caused me to build a wall around myself, both to keep me from getting too close to anyone and to prevent anyone from getting too close to me. I don't know what the future holds now anymore than I did 25 years ago. The one thing I do know though is that I don't intend to ever be hurt again the way I was when Eddie died.
A Birthday is a Gateway
by Helen Steiner Rice
A birthday is a gateway
Between old years and new,
Just an opening to the future
Where we get a wider view.
For it takes a lot of birthdays
To make us wise and kind
And to help us judge all people
With our heart and not our mind.
Every year brings new dimensions
That enable us to see
All things within a kinder light
And more perceptively.
So birthdays are the gateway
To what the future holds
And to greater understanding
As the story of life unfolds.