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Tree of Life




Today is my mother's 65th birthday. I just got back from having breakfast with her at one of her favorite haunts, the Original Pancake House. We exchanged birthday gifts two days ago, when it was my birthday. All this talk of birthdays got me to thinking (often dangerous) about what such days are really about, or what their history is.


Life, as we know, is transient. There is no permanency to it. At least, not individual lives. Life, as a broad term, is fairly lengthy. From the microbe to the turtle, from the amoeba to the chimpanzee, life forms as a whole flourish for an exceedingly long time. But not at an individual level. For us, those of us who celebrate birthdays and are reading (and writing) this blog entry, life is fleeting. In this sense, birthdays are not just a celebration of when we were introduced to this world, but also a marker that says, "Hey! I'm still here!" For there will come a time when that will no longer be so.

Two days ago, I became wistful thinking about the day of my birth. From countless re-tellings of my mother, I already knew it was at 11:15am, and that there was a fresh blanket of snow on the ground. I knew that, the night before, my parents' friends had been over playing cards until the wee hours, and that my mom was beginning not to feel well.

This year, I asked mom who had been at the hospital when I was born. Aside from her and myself (the two necessary players), it had been my dad and maternal grandmother (Gummy). A pang of sadness hit me as I realized that two of the four people who were present at my birth were now dead. That happens, I suppose, as time marches on.

At a basic level, I owe my life to my parents. That may seem like a dramatic way to phrase the act of copulation, but nevertheless it's true. My father lived for just 52 years, but during that time he helped to bring me to life. It's selfish, but I'm grateful. I'm not likely to do the same for some future human, more's the pity.

And now today I think of my mother, born on a late December day in 1946, one of the first in a long line of baby boomers. I don't know who all was present when she entered this world, but I do know that both her parents are dead. My grandfather, Dean, I never knew. My grandmother, "Gummy," was a major part of my life for the first 22 years. They brought my beautiful mother into the world. It's selfish, but I'm grateful.

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