To a child, a birthday is second only to Christmas as The Greatest Day of the Year. A birthday means a party, balloons, presents, and being the center of attention. It also means being one year closer to being either a big kid or an adult. It’s like a rite of passage with cake and ice cream instead of spears, poison darts or dancing until you drop. You don’t have to go through pain and agony to prove you are a useful member of society. You just have to be one year older than you were last year.
Old people have a different perspective. To the Over-60 Crowd, birthdays have lost their luster. A birthday is a reminder that it’s time to write a will and plan your funeral, if only to make sure that you get some good music at the service. One year older means one year closer to the time people will be looking at what the mortician has done with your remains and saying, “She didn’t look this good when she was alive.”
In order to get a clearer picture of how old people deal with birthdays, I have prepared the following questionnaire. I invite anyone over 60 to choose only ONE answer for each question. No cheating!
1. My most vivid childhood birthday memory is:
a. That shiny new bicycle I got for my ninth birthday
b. All of my beloved family and friends gathering around and singing “Happy Birthday”
c. The year my sister put Ex-Lax in my birthday cake
d. The time the kids at my party had a big food fight and my Mom got mad and dunked their faces in the potato salad
e. None. My parents were Jehovah’s Witnesses
2. Do you remind your friends and family when your birthday is coming?
a. Yes. I even choose the restaurant we’ll go to, and invite them to join the party.
b. Yes. I always tell them not to make a fuss, although I secretly hope they’ll throw me a surprise party.
c. Yes, although I fervently hope they’ll all forget.
d. No. I expect them to remember on their own, and I will throw a huge weepy, hissy fit at anyone who forgets.
e. No. I don’t even want to remember it myself. I haven’t planned my funeral yet.
3. You get a birthday card with a really bad old-age joke on it. What do you do?
a. Laugh myself silly
b. Giggle, but without enthusiasm
c. Roll my eyes, shake my head and put the card on the mantel, anyway
d. Groan and promise myself I’ll speak to that fart-face who gave it to me
e. Curse out loud, make a paper airplane out of it and throw it out of a 10th storey window
f. Go after the sender with a loaded shotgun
4. If you had your choice, you would:
a. Shout to the world that it’s your birthday, eat, drink and carouse with everyone because, damn, you’re still alive and you’re in no hurry to plan that freakin’ funeral.
b. Celebrate quietly with a few friends, get a couple of nice presents and be contented
c. Hide in a closet until your birthday is over
d. Threaten to hogtie and drown anyone who even thinks of throwing you a party
5. Overall, what do you think of birthdays?
a. Birthdays are the best thing since the discovery of chocolate.
b. Birthdays are okay, but I’d rather go bowling.
c. Birthdays are for kids.
d. Birthdays are for morons.
e. What’s a birthday?
Now that you have answered my little questionnaire, please save it until next year, answer it again, and see if your attitudes have changed. I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t try to send your answers to me, because this is not a legitimate research project and I wouldn’t know what to do with them, anyway.