When toddlers attack

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Happy birthday to me

I'm cranky and listless today.  In fact, I was cranky and listless yesterday.  Come to think of it, I was cranky and listless all weekend.  It could be the weather -- the National Weather Service's super-duper Lord God High Thermometer in Downtown L.A. hit 113 degrees yesterday... and then broke.  So maybe it was actually hotter.  One thing is certain, though:  if it was 113 downtown, it was closer to 120 in the Valley, even in the relatively cool part where we live.  Adding insult to hot injury, a branch on our tangerine tree, heavy with fruit that will ripen close to Christmas, cracked in the heat yesterday.  Or maybe I'm grouchy because I'm OLD.  I turned 46 on Friday.  That's three years older than my dad was when he had me.  And needless to say, I'm WAY behind in my goal to father a child.

Forty-three has always been a deadline of sorts for me.  I was a product of my dad's second marriage; he had two daughters by his first.  The story he told was that he got drunk one night during the war, when he was stationed in Panama, and woke up married to a boozy, hard-living Army nurse.  The marriage lasted for seven miserable years, and when they finally divorced, she took the two girls and left for the East Coast.  He was a starving actor and figured they were better off with their family.  He was wrong; not surprisingly, she was a terrible mother and her family was worse.  He didn't discover all this until much later.

So when I was born, I think it represented a chance to make up for the years he lost with his daughter.  He always seemed a little apologetic about his skills as a dad, even though he was always available, always affectionate, always effusive in his praise.  When he died 10 years ago, neither of us felt like anything had gone unresolved or unsaid -- sparing me the need for therapy or a weekend naked in the woods banging on a drum in a circle with other men to ease the void created by a too-distant father.

So I think about that a lot:  if we have a kid, how old will he or she be when we die?  I was 35 when my dad died; he was 78.  But he was a heavy smoker, and had a life-long love affair with red meat and ice cream.  During my high school years, he survived a mild heart attack and a burst aortic aneurysm. He had been working for a few months in Arkansas, swimming laps regularly.  Naturally, he blamed the exercise for the aneurysm instead of crediting it for his survival.  While he had been a lifeguard in his youth and even auditioned for the role of Tarzan at the same time as Johnny Weissmuller, I imagine he found swimming inconvenient since it's hard to smoke while you're doing it.

So, while I'm three years older than my dad was at my birth, I think smoking is repugnant, I've exercised regularly since I was in college and a doctor once told me my cholesterol was so low I must be eating cardboard.  Is that a game-changer?  Are those of us currently in our forties so fabulous now that we get to shave 10+ years off what the calendar says?

Or maybe I should wait until it's cooler out to contemplate my own mortality.