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Serious Numbers

Marc Munroe Dion on

I hope someday to be 100 and writing myself a birthday column, but I'm a ways from that event.

What I am is 67 and writing myself a birthday column, which is serious enough. I've been writing this column for 15 years now, and that also seems like a serious number.

Hell, they're all serious numbers. The number of years you are when you get out of grade school. Old enough to vote. Old enough to drink. I'm signed up for Social Security and Medicare.

I was born into 1957, in the most powerful damn country in the world, raised and surrounded by men who'd whupped the whole world. I'm pre-JFK dead, pre-losing in Vietnam. I'm pre-Japanese cars. I'm pre-SpaghettiOs.

Next month will be my 15th wedding anniversary, another number. I was 52 when we married, and it used to bother me that my wife and I would never be one of those couples who make it to 50 years married, but then she had an ovarian cancer scare. It wasn't cancer, but it frightened me badly because I saw the end of days, and now I just want one more day, every day. If the days mount into years, then they do, but what I pray for is one more day. Years teach you the value of days, of one more day.

Because you live it a day at a time, not a year at a time, which is why the dry alcoholics say "one day at a time." They learned it hard, but they know one day is what you've got.

My father died when he was 67. I was 30. Both those numbers were too small.

I'm got some fake teeth, and if I'm tired, or carrying something heavy, I'll grip the banister lightly when I go up a flight of stairs. If I picked a fight with a 22-year-old, he'd kill me, and I know it, and he knows it, and so does my wife, for whom I always want to be a protector.

 

I've still got all my hair, even if my head was shaved when I took the picture for this column. In addition, my crop of nose and ear hair is flourishing, and my eyebrows grow very quickly and become wild tentacles between haircuts.

"Don't forget the eyebrows," I told my barber last visit.

"Don't worry," he laughed. "They're waving at me."

Maybe he was being jerky with me, but he's 25, so what could I do about it? Anyway, he's a happy kid, and he tells me stories about his small son, so it probably wasn't some kind of challenge. Besides, he knows and I know that I am no longer any kind of dangerous man.

Maybe that's all age is, having uncontrollable eyebrows and needing the banister sometimes. Maybe that's what all those days turned into years mean. Maybe the Valentine's Day cards and the wars and the dearly held beliefs are just things we invented to keep us noticing that we're cattle. We're the smart cattle, but that just means we regret the past and fear the future. The dumb cattle don't see it coming. We do.

My wife will get me presents on my birthday, and we'll go out to dinner. That's one day, and that's enough.

To find out more about Marc Dion, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com. Dion's latest book, a collection of his best columns, is called "Mean Old Liberal." It is available in paperback from Amazon.com and for Nook, Kindle, and iBooks.



 

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