I really didn’t prepare myself much for this occasion, because I was too busy living life as a ‘49er, never thinking much about the fact that eventually it would be my turn to actually have a birthday. Most of my high school friends already hit their 50th birthday's throughout this past year. Growing up with an October 17th birthday, I was always the youngest amongst my peers: the last to turn 16, the last to turn 18, and more important, the last to turn 21. I was always so bummed that everyone in my grade was older than me, hitting the "fun" birthdays before me. Heck, I was only 17 when I went to college! Yet as I got older and those “fun” birthdays came and went, I was glad that I was the younger one. It gave me a chance to see how my friends handled hitting their milestone birthdays' (30, 40, and 50), and allowed my brain a chance to prepare itself for the fact that I was that much further from the cradle.
As each of them hit 50, one thing that I noticed (on Facebook and in person) over and over, was that no one was freaking out. No one cried. No one had sad face. No one complained. Everyone smiled, and took their birthdays in stride. I was hoping that I would do the same. I remember my Grandpa Rudy telling me once that he thought the best age to be is 55! I asked him why, and he said because at 55 you are young enough to enjoy life, and old enough not to care what others think or say. So 50? No biggie, right? I still have 5 more years before I am supposed to have the best year of my life!
A few weeks before my actual birthday, a group of my closest friends treated me to a wonderful birthday weekend in San Francisco. They kept all the events a secret until each event unfolded. I was made to feel like a princess with flowers, presents, dinners, cocktails, a champagne cruise, Beach Blanket Babylon, a tiara, sash, and gold shoes. I had a blast, and without a doubt had one of the best times of my life. I laughed all weekend and came home tired and with a hangover, but with a refreshed soul and memories to last a lifetime. Yet, during all of the celebrating, I really didn't feel like I was turning “50” because I still had two weeks to go. For me it just felt like one gigantic party and I was at center stage!
A few years ago before the accident, Vaughn and I talked about my 50th birthday and our 20th wedding anniversary, which took place in 2013. We decided that we would combine the two big events into one and take a trip back to Italy to revisit Venice, my absolute favorite city in the whole wide world. But unfortunately that trip wasn't to be, at least not this year. Although it is my dream to get back to the city of love and romance, it will be postponed until Vaughn is ready. That day will come. That is our hope and dream, anyways!
In keeping with the spirit of Venice, I was lucky enough to spend my actual birthday and the days to follow, at The Venetian in Las Vegas with Vaughn and Jenelle (Understandably, our son Kyle couldn't make it due to midterms and college). Though The Venetian wasn't the real thing, it was close enough, and all that mattered was that we were together.
I decided that I would squeeze every last ounce out of being 49, and every ounce out of the actual birthday itself. One hour before the clock struck 12:00, Vaughn, Jenelle and I went down to the casino area. I figured that if I was going to hit the jackpot, now would be the time. I played a few slots ($20 worth) but unfortunately it took a grand total of 10 minutes for the machines to chew up my money. I wasn't really into playing the machines, and didn't feel like playing cards at $15/hand minimum either. All I wanted to do was be with my family and toast to the passing of the decade.
Ten minutes before the hour, and on our approach up to the casino bar to order a “birthday shot”, I had a funny feeling come over me. It was the first time I actually felt nervous to be turning 50. I didn’t know what I was afraid of. Perhaps turning 50 meant that I was actually that much closer to the end. I was already half-way there if I was to live to 100. That thought scared me. I didn’t want to be on the back end or the tail end of anything…who wants to be there?
I didn’t have time to think about it much longer, because the shot was in front of me and I didn’t want to waste any more time being scared about the inevitable. One minute before the clock struck 12:00, I stood at the bar with my daughter and husband there to watch me drink the “birthday” shot, which actually seemed double in size. I spent the last minute nervously shaking my leg as if I was about to jump out of an airplane, and honestly I don’t know what I was nervous about. Big deal that I was turning 50. My friends did it. My husband did it, as did my sister, my brothers, and my parents. They all survived and are all doing just fine.
Jenelle and Vaughn did the count-down, and when the clock struck 12:00am on October 17th, I downed the shot and decided that all I really could do was to embrace this time in my life, to love it, and most importantly to live it!
When I was finished with the shot and they were done saying “Happy Birthday”, we walked back through the casino towards our room. Vaughn asked if I wanted to play some more machines. No…I don’t need to play anymore. I already hit the Jackpot. I have wonderful friends; incredible parents & siblings; and a husband, son, and daughter, I love more than life itself. So here’s to being 50…May it be all that it can be, and much more!