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Sharon Randall: Happy big birthday to me!

By Sharon Randall

I’m writing this on the eve of a pretty big birthday. Never mind how big. It’s my biggest so far.

To celebrate, I’d like to share some of the things I’ve learned, decade by decade. Here goes:

In my first 10 years, I learned to walk, talk, feed myself, read, write, do arithmetic, mind my manners (if not my business) and try to do as I was told.

I learned to love sunsets and biscuits and the company of a good dog; how to run like the wind, laugh in my belly and keep my chin up, rain or shine.

I learned that the world isn’t always safe or fair, but it is new every day; that there are things you can trust and things you can’t, and you need to trust yourself to know the difference.

In my second decade, I left childhood behind, survived my teens and learned to make big choices: First, to go to college; then, to leave my family in the South and move to California.

I also stopped just doing as I was told and tried to think more for myself. I was still the person I’d always been. But like a reflection that becomes clearer as troubled water grows calm, I began to see not only who I was but who I hoped to become.

In my 20s, I got married and had three babies. Talk about an education. Becoming a mother taught me to love someone more than I loved myself. To put their needs before my own. To do all that I possibly could to nurture, protect and make them happy.

More than a lesson, it was a gift. I knew it the moment I first felt them flutter like a moth inside of me. They’re older now than I was then, and I still feel the same way about them.

In my 30s and 40s, I learned to juggle laundry, meals and lives for five people; keep score for baseball and basketball games; write a weekly column for a newspaper; and help my husband battle cancer.

Those years slipped like sand through my fingers. But there were moments that seemed to whisper, “Watch this, treasure it, remember it, learn from it.”

So I did. I learned that, in Little League, some kids pitch, some kids hit, and some play the outfield to pick daisies for their mom. Socks can be reworn without washing and no one will be the wiser. A fried egg counts as supper. Writing a column is a strange way to earn a living. Chemotherapy is not fun, even if you aren’t the patient. And prayer is always answered, but not always as we hope.

I began my 50s as a widow. It taught me many things, such as this: In good times and bad, it helps to have family, friends and readers … and a wise daughter who says, “Mom, you might not feel like it, but we are going to celebrate your birthday.”

Her words became my goal: To celebrate, no matter how I felt, the gift of being alive. Gratitude and joy aren’t just feelings. They are actions. Grief may numb them for a while. But if we practice them, sooner or later, the feelings will return.

A friend sent me a sympathy card that promised: “Just when you think you will never smile again, life comes back.” I kept it by my bed, read it every night. Then, one day, I smiled. And I ended my 50s as a bride.

Three things marked my 60s: My new husband’s job changed; we left our family in California and moved to Las Vegas; and then we became grandparents — six times in seven years.

Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world. We like it a lot. But it’s got nothing on a toddler who calls you “Nana!”

Big birthdays make us thankful for all the years we’ve been given and hopeful for at least one more. Who knows? This may be the year we’ll move back to California. And the Giants will win another Series. And I’ll quit dying my roots.

Life is worth celebrating every day, whether it’s a birthday or just another day to be alive.

Here’s wishing you a happy birthday whenever it may be.

You don’t need to send me a birthday card. Unless you really want to.

Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 777394, Henderson, NV 89077 or www.sharonrandall.com.

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