The Missing 10

Birthdays are a strange thing. To celebrate momentous occasions such as graduations, retirements, and anniversaries seems fitting. After all, there was a worthy accomplishment that drove the event. But birthdays? I had literally nothing to do with mine. All of the precursory work was done by others. My only job was to breath and cry after the doctor slapped my butt.

At fifty, the doctor has other posterior procedures that bring me to tears. Life has come full circle.

But birthdays do change along the way. They no longer mark status changes – I can drive now, I can vote now, I can legally buy Billy Beer. Officially over the hill, birthdays mark descents into new decades. Why celebrate the slide down the hill? Some people do celebrate to the fullest – I’ve just never been one. I have always found it odd to say: “Congratulations! Well done on being born!”

And then, after so many birthdays, life inevitably deals us all a great loss and things like birthdays seem monumentally unimportant. Festive occasions are no longer the celebrations they should be. While there can be great fun, they also seem to highlight absence. Something is missing.

This year brought my fiftieth and my wife spearheaded a campaign. The girls wrote notes reminding me of the 50 times we had laughed together over the years (most of which were initiated by my stupid or immature behavior.) These were placed around the home and I stumbled on them throughout the day. With just the prompting of a few words, I relived memories that brought many smiles to my face.


Sister Bombs

Silly stories with Magoo & Bongo

Teaching daughters to pee on a tree



But the absence.

I did the math. As originally constituted, after removing the recipient (me) from the equation, our family was perfectly divisible by five. The fifty notes should have been divided up ten per member. But that’s not the way it works now. When divvied up that way there is a remainder of ten. Someone had to pick up the slack to get to fifty and it’s killing me to know what would be on the missing ten.

The missing ten. What would Kylie’s be? What made her smile? What did I do that brought her joy?

Sucking helium and singing show tunes

The bald buddy head butts

Building her dresser together


Those are some of my thoughts, but what would hers be?

I don’t doubt they existed and likely overlap some written by her sisters. But I yearn to know what hers are and I never will. The missing ten will forever haunt me. Somewhere inside, I know what she would say…



Daddy, don’t you remember that time? That time we ____?

Yeah, I remember. That was fun but I haven’t done it in years.

Why not?

It just isn’t the same anymore. Nothing is the same.

It’s only a little while until we can do it together again.

A little while? Wait, do you know something? Am I going to die soon?

That’s kind of a dumb question. Everyone is going to die soon. The question is, are you going to live now? Stop crying over the missing ten and make fifty more.


I wish I could, baby. I wish I could…

What the Mail Brung

I love checking the mail… aways have. It doesn’t hold the allure it once did. Way back in those bygone days when people still wrote letters, the mailbox held potential treasure six days a week. All that stood between me and a decadent life I always dreamed of was a lowered red flag and that metallic “thwunk” of the door.

Maybe a long-lost uncle found me! “You may already be a winner!” says Ed McMahon and if anyone is trustworthy, it’s Ed McMahon! Yes sir, Mr. McMahon – I will play your stamp games and subscribe to seven magazines which are offered to me at a substantial discount from cover price! Columbia House wants to send me eleven record albums for a penny? Where do I sign?

Those days are sadly gone. But I still hold a fool’s notion that one day, in between the junk mail and bills, there will be a letter that changes everything. I have no idea what I’m expecting and I wish I could adequately describe the anticipation. My mailbox experience almost always falls short – except on those glorious days when we get a letter from Zimbabwe where our friend, Clarance lives. Those are good days.

On the first day of October, it brought a new sensation. It started innocuously – a letter addressed to me had “Happy Birthday” printed on the bottom corner. Of course, that piqued my interest because I have one coming at the end of the month. The big 5-0! I’m not caught up on the number. It always feels strange to enter a new decade, but besides some knee pain and pesky ear hair, I’m faring pretty well. And it wouldn’t matter if I wasn’t, it’s still coming.

This letter felt so warm and personal but instead brought something strange and terrible. I had barely shut the little black door when my life hit a new low as I contemplated my potential induction into the AARP.


Let me be clear – retirement isn’t on the horizon. In fact, I can’t even see the horizon for all the tuition payments and wedding bills ahead of me. So this offer seemed utterly ridiculous. When I reached the kitchen table I rolled through a textbook case of the five stages of grief right in front of my kids who laughed incessantly.

Denial: Surely not! Retirement age is 67, isn’t it? A quick check online told me that I can enjoy all the benefits of membership now… Ugh.

Anger: How do they know? Where did they get my data? Probably Equifax. Everybody has everything now. My anger has been further exacerbated by the fact that solicitations to join now pop up in my Facebook feed.

Bargaining: I’m not really retirement age. They’re just trying to expand their base by letting us younger pups in early. This is a marketing ploy, nothing more. After all, I’ve been getting VFW letters for year.

Depression: I’m getting so old. Seriously, how can I have lived half a decade? There can’t be much gas left in the tank. Better make sure my affairs are in order.

Acceptance: Hey, maybe there are discounts!


The unanswered card still sits on my vanity. It looks festive and inviting but I can’t bring myself to send it back. I could always use a sporty tote – but the fellas will give me grief about the AARP monogram. And I like Denny’s as much as the next guy, but do I have to eat dinner before 5 pm for the 10% off? While discounts are nice, on some level I feel like whipping out your AARP card is akin to using coupons on a date.

I’m so torn…

Hey, is indecision is a sign of old age?