Friday, January 27, 2012

Rolling over the chronometer

Freshly shorn and 50
Today, I'm 50 years old.  God help me, I'm proud of it.  I find dignity in that number.  Fifty.

The way I see it, if you've managed to make it to fifty, you've qualified.   You've demonstrated a certain competency just by staying alive that long.  Which is not to say that there isn't any luck involved.  Certainly not!  Health, wisdom, strength, prudence, temperance, charisma, intelligence, money... even if you have all that, you're still going to need a good dose of luck.

Well, I've had plenty of that.  Luck, that is.  Lots of it.  I didn't have any say into how I came into this world, but if I had, I don't know how I could have asked for more.

I was born in Good Samaritan Hospital in Corvallis, Oregon, at 12:06am on January 27th, 1962.  Half a century later, I live 81 miles away in a vintage house in inner southeast Portland. In the interim, I've made my home in Klamath Falls, Salem, and Redmond.  Always in Oregon.  Oregon is my home.  I hope I am here, in Oregon, when I exit the stage.

I've beheld a marvelous tale thus far.  I rode the railways across western Europe.  I traveled the highways along the western slopes of the Andes.  I roamed across the plains in northern India, and the savannahs of sub-Saharan Africa.  I've seen the painted canyons in Utah and Arizona, the grandeur of untamed Alaska, the paradise of Hawaii, the dazzle of San Fransisco, New York, Los Angeles.  I say all this not to brag, you understand, but out of gratitude.

I've never lacked for friends.  True friends.  Loyal friends.  Dear friends.  I can't begin to name them all.  I wouldn't want to omit any of them.  They know who they are.  Nor do I lack for uncles, aunts and cousins whom I am proud to have in my family.  I'm grateful that not a day has passed when there was no one for me to turn to. 

I want to express special gratitude to my four grandparents, Bob and Gertrude Metzger, and Ross and Jenny Cariaga, all of whom have passed beyond, and each of whom offered gifts of wisdom and love.

And thanks as well to the Great Whatever for blessing me with my brothers and sisters, Eric, Paige, Mia, Calee, Chae and Seth, who are my best friends and most trusted counselors. 

And thanks for Dad.  For Ross Cariaga, Junior.  The mercurial, larger-than-life personality that cast his shadow over everything for the first 30 years of my life.  It was not always easy orbiting that star.  Rage, not anger!  Grief, not sadness!  Joy, not contentment!  After Dad, I was ready for anything.  He was only 59 when he passed.  A mere 9 years older than I am today.

The two women who are first in my life are my mom, Bobbie Batey, and my wife, Maty Bombay.  (No honest man will have any other.  Is it not so?)  Mom taught me the vital importance of compassion, of kindness, of using one's strength to protect, to nurture, to love.  And Maty --well, Maty teaches me wisdom and nobility each and every day.  They've both endured a lot from me and, even on my worst days, their love never faltered.

My dad used to say that the one wish he asked of God was that all of his kids would outlive him.  He got his wish.  And, even though my wish isn't nearly so quantifiable, no matter how it goes from here, it's already been granted for all the reasons I've mentioned.

I know you don't get any guarantees in life.  You never know what is coming down the pipeline.  And I've known hard times and grief and fear and, in my worst moments, hatred, despair, self-pity.  That comes with being fifty, too.  But when I step back and take in the entire tapestry, with all its squalor and glory and its infinite complexity, I can see that, once it is fully woven, it is going to be a marvelous, beautiful tapestry.

Hindus, in accordance with their belief in reincarnation and karma, hold that one's life is the sum total of all previous lives.  Indeed, that one's enlightenment, one's contentedness, is a function of the good deeds committed during previous life cycles.  Well, if that's the case, I have only one question:  What did I do to get so lucky?  What the hell did I do?

Fifty years old, humbled, and grateful.


Odile Quennoz said...

Very nice text, dear Dade. I wish you a very happy birthday and I'm happy to have crossed your path a millenium ago in Europa. 

Chris Williamson said...

So well said. I wish I had your words. wishing so many more. This year will be my sixtyeth and I hope I reach it with as many dignity as you have shown. Thankyou and many more!!