I’m 38 today. Eight years since 30, 2 years until 40. Is it supposed to be surreal? Am I truly supposed to feel like I’m getting older? I guess I’m considered middle-aged, or “getting up in the years”. But, do I feet like I'm anywhere near the end of the story?
I don’t. I don’t feel old or long in the tooth. Sure, my back hurts about half the time. Falling ill tends to floor me a bit more than it ever did, no matter how minor. I don’t know what the latest craze is among twenty-somethings.
Then again, I was married and bought a house at 24. I had a child at 26. I was widowed by age 34. Hell, I’m 20 years into my career at this point. Had I re-enlisted in the Marine Corps and stuck with it, I could have RETIRED last month.
I’ve lived damned near an entire life already, and I’m not even over-the-hill. I’m not old...I’m experienced. By no means does that make me an expert on anything whatsoever. It doesn’t make me wise, or an elder, or any other term you want to use. It just means that I can sit with someone who just lost their wife, at age 30, or age 80, and say “I’ve been there too”.
After experiencing 37 birthdays, my 38th is really just another day. Another page in the book. On page 38, I’m at work, Shelby’s at school, I need to get gas in the car, and dishes need washed. I don’t reflect on my past years any more than I would on any other given Tuesday; any more than writing my post here normally requires.
Perhaps it’s looking ahead. Being widowed at a young age, in general, means that I have so, so much more life left to live. So many more pages to read. It truly feels like a new chapter. It was such a drastic change in my path to have Megan die that it feels as if I got to start over, but with all of the experience and knowledge I didn’t have the benefit of possessing as a kid.
Physically, yes, I am inching closer and closer to 40, and it shows. A gray hair appears every now and then. A new ache or pain surprises me about once a week. There are a few crow’s feet appearing, and eating an entire pizza is much more consequential to my spare tire than it was 10 years ago.
But I also know that I’m probably not even halfway done. (That “probably” word is something that my experience tells me to add to this metaphor I'm trying to weave). I can take that horrible experience of losing Megan, and apply it to my life for at least another 38 years, walking through life with the knowledge that it was only a chapter somewhere in the middle of the book. One that makes the entire work more interesting and compelling. It defines the story for the next chapter, yet the next chapter stands on its own right.
Had that chapter in my life not occurred, the next one wouldn’t have made sense. In the book of life, a birthday is simply a page. It doesn’t define the beginning or end of a chapter. It’s simply a sequential way of finding a passage in the greater story.
Megan died on page 34. Near the end of the first paragraph. Sarah entered the story on the same page, a little farther down. I’ve moved three-and-a-half pages ahead in the story, and I’m certainly not ready to put the book down yet.
Because I’m not even halfway done.