A long-time friend, Bob Wis once recalled that his five-year-old son asked, “Dad. Are you old?”
“I don’t know,” Bob responded, giving it little thought. But as kids are at that age, he was looking for more detail, and continued.
“How will you know when you are old?” His son responded.
This time, Bob took a moment to think about his son’s question and the answer that came out of his mouth was profound.
“I’ll know I’m old when I can’t change my mind.”
That conversation took place over forty years ago, but its message has stuck with me to this day.
I’m always surprised when someone tries to hold another person accountable for something they wrote, said or did decades before. Isn’t it possible they no longer feel or think the same way? Do we believe we, and others are incapable of a mind change? I can change my mind and that is a quality I pray I never lose.
I’ve changed my views, through the years, on more subjects that I recall. I don’t talk politics in my column, always striving to be “Switzerland” when I write, but I will share that I grew up in a household that was staunchly a supporter of one party. Later, as an adult, I quickly shifted to the other. That is a change that I once thought nearly impossible, but when it happened, transition came swiftly.
Like you, I have an opinion on most things, but when I look back over the course of my life it surprises me how much I have changed. I have opinions, but I try not to be opinionated. I can comfortably listen to descent and not feel threatened. The changes in my views are usually gradual but I am occasionally surprised by the speed of change. One such transition of my views occurred this month.
I am writing this column on my birthday. When we were kids, birthdays were a big deal with high expectations. On that day, we were the most important human in our household. We enjoyed gifts, cake, and special attention. For me, in my home, that stopped when I became a teenager. It was accepted wisdom in my family that birthday celebrations were for children. There was always a gift, but the cakes and parties ended. The celebration lost its luster, then disappeared.
We take what we have learned growing up into our marriage. We certainly made birthdays for our children a celebration, but again, as years passed, the excitement dwindled and the importance of celebrating the anniversary of birth slowly left our home. That made sense to me. Birthdays are for kids.
I don’t consider myself old at all, but I had a major health scare this year. I’m fine. I’m going to be fine, but during a three-month period of testing and examination, I shifted my thinking on more than a few areas. Birthdays are one of them.
We celebrate Independence Day, the birthday of our nation, with patriotic fervor and should. Why would celebrating birthdays, yours, and those of others be less important?
As I began my shift in thinking on this subject, I realized that I am celebrating seven more birthdays than my father. He died suddenly and unexpectedly … and it can happen to any of us, at any time. I have written in the past about living a life with no regrets. I don’t want to regret not recognizing the importance of this day with those I value.
Celebrate and remember those we love and love us in return
I remember my parent’s birthday, each year. I think of them more on their birthday, now that they are gone, than when they were alive. I can’t change the past, but I can do a better job of recognizing and celebrate birthdays of those I love now. As this year has taught me, we never know when an accident or unexpected illness can bring life to a screeching halt. Moving forward, I’ll be deliberate and proactive in my celebration.
Celebrate your birthday
This one is harder for me. I rarely remember my birthday is coming unless someone reminds me. It’s never been an important event in my life, which may also be the reason I have done a poor job of celebrating the birthday of others. I hope I have many birthdays left but I am going to begin cherishing them as though each may be my last. Hey, aren’t we all worth a little self-celebration once a year? It is our love of self that helps us love others. So why not celebrate you?
Birthdays are not the only shift in thinking I am experiencing as of late, but today is my birthday and I thought I’d begin here. Like my friend Bob, I am grateful I am still able to change my mind.
Gary W. Moore is a syndicated columnist, speaker and author of three books including the award-winning, critically acclaimed, “Playing with the Enemy.” Follow Gary on Twitter @GaryWMoore721 and at www.garywmoore.com.