Monday, November 15, 2004

What It's Like to Be Forty

"They say life begins at forty/Age is just a state of mind/If all that's true/You know, that I've been dead for thirty-nine"
-John Lennon

The story goes like this (so I'm told): the parents of four just had visited the doctor where the expectant mother was told that even though she felt the twinges of labor that she had plenty of time to go back home get her things and come back to the hospital. The father drove the mother homeward stopping first to pick up dinner for the rest of the family at Chin's Kitchen on the corner of Larpenteur and Snelling in St. Paul (Falcon Heights).

It was there where the expectant mother told the father that they had better hurry because she didn't think there was that much time. So after delivering the Moo Goo Gai Pan and Egg Foo Young at the couple's newly purchased four bedroom, three bathroom house in Roseville the father brought the mother back to the hospital where she soon afterwards gave birth to their fifth child, a second son.

That child, forty years later turned a prematurely old man, lived a life that constantly sought some type of not quite there meaning, seeking poetic symbolism that would give tune to a melody that often times seemed at least a half a key flat. And on the night of his 40th birthday, still missing his late mother the boy returned to Chin's Kitchen, now located across the street on the other corner of Larpenteur and Snelling in St. Paul (Falcon Heights) close to his house. He ordered sweet and sour shrimp because that was the type of mood he was in.

The meal was tasty and fitting for a who would have thought, certainly not he, he'd ever make it to this night. The boy, now old man, almost too deliberately returned to the Chinese restaurant because he still missed his Mom too much and wanted to feel some kind of celebrated connection, even if it was 40 years way beyond removed, for just this night.

He got home too late to celebrate much of anything and ate his meal in front of the latest episode of NYPD Blue. The show is fittingly in its final season- a show that the 40 year old boy has persistently watched even if it would not ever quite make his list of favorite TV shows. He remembered how during his Mom's too sudden yet horribly brief illness how when he was visiting her they watched an episode of the ABC drama, the one where Jimmy Smits' character died, and all the boy could think of was that by the time the repeat of the tear inducing episode aired, his mother would be dead (and he was right).

The NYPD Blue episode on this evening, enjoyed with an order of Chin's sweet and sour shrimp, featured the return of the ghost of Smits' Bobby Simone. Bobby's partner, Andy Sipowicz has endured a string of hard to take losses and on this show he needed to see his late partner, his guardian angel, and asked what was to come next. And Andy asked if there really was a God.

The boy bawled his eyes out. Ever since his mother's death there has been a certain feeling of feeling dead inside, the feeling that nothing can ever be the same again yet life as it is must continue. That's what Mom would have wanted.

Forty is an age that one shouldn't be living the way one was when he was 20, should be just a tad more grown up, yet it is an age where one isn't quite eligible to join AARP. And that is the reason the boy decided to awkwardly try his best to acknowledge this fragile bubble. He spent much of the rest of the night downloading songs on to his new iPod that his family gave him as a special gift to commemorate reaching 40. He also had gone out and bought some flannel pajamas- his first pair of pajamas since he left his parent's house for college. There couldn't be better symbols of where he was at- technology meets music to try and feel young, and some comfortable sleepwear to admit that the constant desire these days is a good night's sleep.

So the aging boy found himself upstairs with his most recent of loves, his kitties. For the record, Diego-san loves to hop up on the vanity in the newly completed upper wing of the house and lap up the water from the faucet. The big vanity mirror caught the black cat's attention this night as he saw the other cat, the three-legged Thompson's image scamper into view. Diego-san not quite understanding the concept of a reflection swatted at the mirror image, in the rear, of Thompson only to draw air (and glass).

Amusing or not, this is what it is to be 40. The taste of all that was sweet and sour from Chin's Kitchen and beyond went down smoothly yet the order wasn't quite right and seemed a bit too forced to be what one should spend one's 14,600 night on the planet fixating on.

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