On Monday I turn 46-years old. It’s a rather anti-climactic age. It’s not 40-years old, or 30-years old. It’s certainly not 18, 16, or 13-years old. And you’re still a hell of a ways off from 65 or 80-years old. It’s just a 4 of hearts or 5 of spades in a deck with kings, queens, aces, and yes, even jokers. It’s one of those birthdays you can forgive others(hell, even yourself) for forgetting. It’s a nondescript turn around the sun that requires no black balloons or surprise parties with friends and relatives hiding in the dark waiting for you to get home from a long day of work. It’s just another day. If you’re lucky, you might get a piece of cake and a homemade card from the kids.
When my dad was 46-years old I was 19. I’d like to say that I don’t remember his 46th birthday in order to prove my point, but I actually remember it quite well. His 46th was on August 18th, 1993. That was the day I started working my first real full-time job. Up to that point I’d been at a local printer delivering bundles of newspapers to route drivers. I guess that was my first real full-time job, but it felt more like three months floating untethered in space looking for a passing meteor to grab onto. I felt like a kid working among disgruntled elders; whining about Clinton, Gangsta Rap, and Clear Pepsi over smoke breaks and lousy ham sandwiches and Little Debbie snack cake lunches. After a grueling 15-hour day of getting lost in Indianapolis, driving a box truck filled with 6-ft high skids of Indiana Auto & RV I came home to a phone call from a family friend asking if I was interested in a job at his place of employment. It was an orthopedic company in town, and I said yes before he finished his sentence. It could’ve been a novelty shop where they made whoopie cushions and hand buzzers and I still would’ve dropped that yes like a hot potato.
So on August 18th, 1993, on my dad’s 46th birthday, I started working 2nd shift at a local medical manufacturer and left my truck driving days behind me. My dad was already 29 years in at another local printing company by the time I began my full-time tour of duty. Clock-punching, medical benefits, paid vacations, 20-minute paid lunches.
I’m sure he doesn’t remember his 46th birthday like I remember it. It was probably just another day to him. He washed the car, read the paper, and ate lunch and a slice of cake before heading into work at 4pm. Just another day. 46-years in, and another nondescript turn around the sun. He had no idea what an impact he’d had on his son; seeing him get up every morning and make his coffee at 6:30am, pack his lunchbox, and head out to a job that year by year got to be less of a privilege and more of an obligation. A necessity. The dedication to a job became just a dedication to a roof over heads, meals on the table, and new threads each school year for two sons.
On my dad’s 46th birthday I felt I’d made it to some major milestone in my life. I’d achieved some sort of semblance of maturity by getting a full-time job like my old man. I’d attempted college after high school, but it just didn’t work out. I stayed home and stocked shelves at a grocery store on 3rd shift, then rented video games and X-rated flicks to the local stoners and working class folks. I’m sure my dad might’ve worried I’d stay in some sort of minimum wage rut and live in my childhood bedroom till I was 40, but he never said a thing to me. He let me work it out and figure out my life somewhat. And though I don’t remember him saying anything to me on August 18th, 1993, maybe what he felt was some relief as I took off for my first day of full-time clock punching.
Hopefully on my 46th birthday my kids look at me the same way I looked at my dad. My oldest is 19, but she’s doing quite well in college. I don’t see her punching clocks. I see her doing more than that, not that there’s anything wrong with being working class. I still am working class. But there’s less opportunities for folks like me. Now more than ever, you need to find what you love and make something of it. Make something with it. At least do your damndest to make it happen.
46 turns around the sun. It may not feel significant, but don’t fool yourself. Every turn around that blazing globe is something. It really is.