Sunday, October 17, 2004

Another Year Richer

It's Sunday, October 17, 2004. Tomorrow I turn forty-six. Forty-six is not typically a milestone year, and yet this has been a milestone year in many respects. Since Sundays are a favorite day for reflection in the Woody household, and since my tradition is to do a (sorta) yearly birthday essay, this seems to be as good a forum as I'm likely to get.

Birthday years that coincide with elections are always tough, because I have to temper my celebrations with upcoming opportunities to vote and speak my voting mind. This year is no exception and seems to be tempered even more by the rancor of this campaign season. Looking back, it's been a doozy. From the Democrat-du-jour primaries, to the conventions, to the debates, I'm certain that this election year will be forever seared -- seared into my memory.

In the meantime, I ain't getting any younger. Things that seemed incredibly important to me twenty years ago now only serve to remind me just how young I was back then. Twenty years ago I began working for Rockwell International in Palmdale, California, manufacturing B-1B bombers for Reagan's defense initiatives. That seemed incredibly important to me back then, although I sometimes wonder whether that was primarily because cancellation of the program would have meant a reciprocal cancellation of my paycheck. Still, out of a hundred planes built for Uncle Sam, I helped build seventy-five of them before leaving the division one step ahead of the layoffs.

I also find that theater, which once occupied a huge part of my psyche, is no longer something that consumes me. Truth is, in my adult life I have only averaged one production every four years. That's not a large number for someone as ostensibly talented as I profess to be. Still, I once considered that I could make a career out of theater. Then, in my last big production (Mozart's Magic Flute) I began to notice that lots of the kids I was working with were vain, shallow bits of talent of the kind that seem to appear on reality TV a lot these days, and I realized that theater will forever remain a casual hobby for me.

Music remains, I am happy to report, an important part of my self-definition. We had a discussion in Church today that impacted me greatly. The topic dealt with music as a prayer of the righteous, a concept well known to Latter-day Saints, but inconsistently practiced by them. In fact, judging from the comments by the brethren in attendance today, many of them still don't get it. If you surround yourself with music of a questionable nature ("I never listen to the words...") on a constant basis, you will be negatively impacted. I chewed on my tongue for this discussion. Had I dared raise my hand, I would have alienated nearly the entire Ward by going into Boyd K. Packer mode. Dad would have rolled over in his grave (again), and my next message from a dead relative would probably give me nightmares for weeks. I actually kept my opinion to myself for a change. Also, my voice is at the top of its game now, but, ironically, I have little time to indulge it outside of Ward Choir. One's voice rarely stays at the top of that game for very long, so we'll see.

Speaking of dead relatives, mine have been giving me fits ever since Dad passed away over four years ago. Let me clarify: I have never seen a ghost in my life. I do not hear voices in my head, unless I owe someone money. I know the dangers inherent to a Ouija board. But they bother me all the same. Family historians will know exactly what I'm talking about. I'll be looking at an entry for one of my more obscure (to me) antecedents, and suddenly it seems that this individual has become the most important person to occupy my soul aside from my sweet wife. I become obsessed with finding out exactly where this person was living at the time of the 1850 census. I must know if this is the same shoemaker that lived in New York in 1840. Yes! It is! The data matches! He leaves me alone, finally, and I am free for the next possession. Genealogy. Gotta love it.

I have also reached an age where I can finally compare myself favorably with my Dad. Really. I remember my Dad at age forty-six. I was almost sixteen. I think I was personally responsible for approximately sixty-five percent of his gray hairs that year. My brother put the other thirty-five percent there. From my sixteen year old perspective, Dad was huge. Not literally, although he was definitely a member of the Horizontal Tie Club, if you catch my drift. No, he was larger than life. "Imperious" would have been a good description of Dad, if I'd known that word when I was sixteen. One must attend school to learn words like "imperious," and that's about thirty percent of Dad's gray hair, right there. I never thought I would be like my Dad was when I got to be as ancient as he was.

Well, guess what? I'm there, and I see it. I didn't see it four years ago, but I see it now. Why? Because I understand what Dad was going through when he was that age. I know about kids and how they can both exasperate you, yet make you incredibly proud of them. I understand about financial stresses, and career worries, and personal health concerns. I know what it is to have a loving wife, brilliant kids, and a good career. My teeth are falling apart, but life is basically good. I get all of that now. I didn't get it thirty years ago. I'm sorry for that, Dad. But you already know that, don't you?

I am one who has sorely tested the Lord's patience throughout my entire life. I know that, because my own patience (mostly with myself) has been just as sorely tested. I heard a wise man say, just today, that I can't point at others in life and think that they've got everything going for them, because no sooner will I say that than one of those self-same "privileged" people will walk into his office and tell him things that break his heart. Everything is relative.

My good wife, who deserves several medals just for putting up with me, is my ground wire. She keeps me from shorting out and going haywire. She tells me that things will work out just at that moment when I think things can't possibly get worse. And she's always right. They always do work out. She's amazing.

So, such are the rambling thoughts of a still-young forty-six year old male. I've been through my mid-life crisis (crises?). I've got maybe half of my life still ahead of me.

Things couldn't be better.

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