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August 19, 1997

At some point, birthdays become a time for contemplative, sober reflection, as well as celebration. While munching on another slice of cake, we come to the realization that our time frame is changing, that we are not going to accomplish all the things we set out to do 'way back when. The bright golden hue on the horizon that beckoned us in childhood is no longer quite so far away. Seasons, entire years, pass so swiftly you hardly notice.

Little tasks that once seemed to require minimal effort become difficult, leaving us short of breath, red-faced and looking for a place to sit down and rest for a minute. The thermostat setting in both winter and summer becomes .a matter of serious concern ("turn it up! ... turn it down! ") to a degree you never thought possible. Clothes hanging in the closet suddenly no longer fit and that may just be the first awareness that pounds are inexplicably adding up faster than they once did.

Listening to the dialogue on some of the popular TV sitcoms, where Generation X buddyships are predominant, is a clue to how unfamiliar we are with today's vernacular, and how much we miss the wit, style and taste of the old Mary Tyler Moore and Dr. Bob Newhart shows. Current popular music and the artists who assault us with it are mostly weird and incomprehensible, but that's been true since the advent of rock and roll. Big bands like the Dorseys, Glenn Miller, Harry James and Sammy Kaye, and composers like the Gershwins, Hoagy Carmichael, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and Jerome Kern (to name only a few of each) are fondly remembered and sorely missed.

Studying restaurant menus brings another gentle reminder that time is marching on, and that the old, carefree selection of things to eat has been drastically curtailed to avoid upsets in the upper and/or lower digestive tracts.

As the assemblage of family and friends harmonize on a happy rendition of the birthday song and the honored one prepares to blow out all those candles with a single breath, we are pleasantly reminded of just how much we need and treasure the love and friendship of these folks. Our connection with each of them becomes more valuable with each passing year because their strength supports us in a way that nothing else can.

Then, too, there is the spiritual vitality that most of us acquired in another time. That nourishes and refreshes us with the most meaningful of assurances, and that in and of itself more than tips the scales against all those dreadful negatives. With that foundation to bear us up, the sun shines brightly once again. It is always a Happy Birthday!