Saturday, February 29, 2020

Leaping Through the Numbers

My wife turned 70 yesterday. I repeat: 70. The cliched reaction held true: 


My gift was a card of 70 memories and what was yet more sobering was remembering things that happened ten years ago that seemed like yesterday. Which means the next ten years can pass just as quickly. And then suddenly it’s 80. Ugh. The mathematics of mortality—my least favorite subject in the school of life. 

But still— she’s crazily active and we’re celebrating by biking 70 miles in Marin over the next two days with our daughters. After she hiked 12 miles a couple of days ago. She looks great, feels good, is in good health (except for a bothersome toe), is busy each day sketching, writing postcards to Congress, gardening a bit, reading, knitting, cooking, all with different groups of friends. That’s a lot to be grateful for. 

My daughters added 40 memories to my 70 and it was fun to look back over the landscape we all had traveled together and laugh at those small and big moments— her bumping into a sea turtle when we went to Hawaii, drinking too many Long Island iced teas at a comedy show we went too, making a hamster costume for the one kids’ Halloween, building a patio with the other, trying really strong marijuana gummies at a big family reunion (5 years ago!) and so on. 

After first doing my list chronologically, I switched to grouping my category. The various facets of our life in San Francisco— our homes we lived in, movie theaters and restaurants we liked, theaters and jazz clubs we went to, various memorable plays, speakers, events, tourist sites, so many that have closed, a few still going strong. I went through various machines (rotary phones! Slide projector! Popcorn popper!), cars we drove (Saab, Toyotas, Prius) , pets we had (hamsters and a cat), cookbooks we used (Diet for a Small Planet!), dinners we cooked (Easy and Eloquent Cheese Souffle), TV Shows (from Alice to Cheers to Seinfeld to The Good Wife to Stephen Colbert), favorite videos (all of Hitchcock!), weekly radio shows (Prairie Home Companion, This American Life), memorable movies (the first Star Wars! Sing-a-long Sound of Music!). On it went into neighborhood traditions (Pumpkin carving! Christmas caroling! Easter egg hunts!), retreats with friends (Winter snow trip! New Year’s Walk! Calistoga Spring trip!), the kids’ birthday parties (the 5thgrade cocktail party and limousine ride! 8thgrade re-filming of Vertigo around San Francisco!) There were our travels with and without kids to some 50 countries, visits to our parents, friends and families visiting us in San Francisco. And then the 42 shared years at The San Francisco School—that could have been 70 (and more) memories alone. Quite a list. 

So here we are at Point Reyes Station, first time our little nuclear family has been together since forever—no grandchildren or friends or other family. A strong wind is predicted today, but at least it’s not raining. My older daughter (who will turn 40 this September!!) is fighting a cold, but in these days of viruses/ fires/ floods/ political turmoil, all small human-size challenges that we can weather. A lot to be grateful for—and we are.

Like today, a once-every-four-year gift of an extra day spent outdoors keeping the old body moving and re-kindling the family we used to be until the kids moved out. The numbers may be tumbling in an unwanted direction, but we get to choose what happens within each gifted number and sometimes it’s glorious. 

Happy Leap Day to all!

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