Wednesday, September 15, 2004

You say it's your birthday . . .

Aragorn (pictured left), ranger and heir to the throne of Gondor in J.R.R. Tolkien's celebrated epic, Lord of the Rings, was born in the 2931st year of the Third Age (for details read Tolkien's Silmarillion). That puts him, surprisingly perhaps, around his 86th or 87th year during the events of the Fellowship of the Ring.

I was born under the Showa calendar in the reign of the Emperor Hirohito, who died in 1989 by our calendar. But I hardly ever remember my birthday until someone reminds me of it, as my dear wife did when she took me out to dinner the other day.

But then comes the fun: seeing which of the kids and other relatives remembers it. Of course, the answer is usually none. Not even my own dad. I finally called him up and asked him if he remembered that there was something special about this day ... no, not that it was the feast day for the Exaltation of the Cross; no, not that the sun came out in Iowa; no, not that he had Iowa sweet corn for dinner: DAD! Back in Chengdu, Szechuan, in China! "Oh, my goodness ... Why if I didn't completely forget!" ... Um, yeah, Dad. I thought so.

Nathan, our youngest, called up and talked for a long time, first with Amy, who told him: "You're not only the first to call, but so far you're the only one of the boys who's called." My heart glowed. When she finally gave me the phone, I talked with Nathan for about twenty minutes about this and that. Finally he got around to the reason for his call: "The main reason I called was to ask you whether we could stay with you we come up ..." "NATHAN! You mean you didn't call to wish me a happy birthday???" "You mean it's your birthday today?" ... Yeah. Another bubble burst.

Later I called Jamie to see if he remembered. Nope. His strengths lie in other areas, he said, like producing progeny to carry on my line. Okay ... no luck there.

In the middle of the night we were awakened by a call from Chris, who said that Shara had reminded him that it was my birthday. Um ... thanks, Shara! We had a good talk and a good laugh about the other calls.

Jon called me the next day to retroactively wish me that I had had a good birthday the day before. He was, he said, distracted from calling me the day before because Matt Yoder was back in town and he was chillin' with Matt that evening. Good ol' Matt.

Meiko, one of my sisters living in Seattle, did email me to wish me a happy birthday. She remembered.

But my own sons! And my own Dad! Sigh ... Oh, well, what does it matter, really? When, like Aragorn, born in the 2931st year of the Third Age, one has reached his 86th or 87th year, what does the passing of yet another year in earth time betoken, besides the obvious? Will we celebrate birthdays in the Undying Lands of the West, if , like Tolkien's Elrond (pictured right) we are immortal? What do you think?

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