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The best birthday present

“Good morning, darling. Happy birthday. I’m so glad I had you.”
Every year, at 8 a.m. on my birthday, my mom called with the same line. I was born at 8 a.m. I knew it was coming and usually thought, “same old same old.” Hurry up. I have a busy day.
I just turned 65. A biggie. At my age, I have about all the “stuff” I want and certainly more than I’ll ever need. My biggest birthday gift this year was my Medicare card. My brother, Jonny, said that on behalf of all taxpayers, he was happy to give me lifetime health care.

This is the first birthday that made me take a deep breath and think about the number. I always felt young, or maybe just immature. I didn’t shave daily until 30 and was scared of girls, then women, until I was … well, I still am. I now hate restaurants and theaters that charge me the senior discounted rate without my asking.
My parents seemed eternally young. When he was almost 60, my dad played on a men’s league softball team with a bunch of 20-somethings and would start to rough up these 250-pound guys who ran over him as he protected third base. In my 20s, my mother told me she could outrun me. I scoffed, so she challenged me. At first I wondered nervously if she might beat me. I won easily, but she really thought she’d win. At 88, my grandmother came home from work one day and said, “I don’t think I’ll go back to work any more.” My mother had to be unchained from her desk and dragged away at 82. She had forgotten — or refused — to sign up for Medicare.
Here I am, feeling 20 or 40 or something that still has that freshman feel of “what’s this all about?” with many aspects of my life. But not 65, especially since life expectancy was 66 when Medicare was passed.

My mother died about two-and-a-half years ago. As I went to bed the night before my birthday, this profound sadness washed over me. Her call would not be there in the morning.
My partner, companion, significant other (what do you call a “girlfriend” at my age?) has been a judge for over 20 years. (I call her Lisa, not Your Honor.) She recently finished two years handling juvenile cases which, to her, was utterly depressing. She knew that most of the 11- to 16-year-old kids in her court were being trained by the system to become lifelong criminals.
One day, I said to her, “The most important decision any person makes in life is picking the right parents. They made bad decisions.”
She began using my line (without paying royalties) in her courtroom and in speeches as a way to tell these kids that they had a higher mountain to climb, more obstacles to get around, more challenges to face without the help or safety net that many of the people they will meet in life will have.
This year, I woke up knowing that my parents had given me the best birthday gift ever: being my parents.
David Post lives in Salisbury

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