By Joe Rector

Another birthday has come and gone, and another year is in the books. I’m lucky enough to have a wonderful family that chooses to gather on a weekend around that date to celebrate that day. We sit around the pool, cook hamburgers and hotdogs, and laugh and talk until we’re exhausted.

Growing old isn’t that difficult for us. If we are lucky enough, time slides along and takes us with it. Birthdays when I was young left memories and warm sun, honeysuckle, and Mother’s sixth grade class picnic at our house. The smell of leather always reminds me of that birthday when Jim and I received new ball gloves as presents. Neither of us were skilled at using them, but that never kept us from throwing ball in the front yard or trying to play on the team Mr. Wright coached. Melt-in-your-mouth always set center stage on the birthday table.

Teenaged birthdays were different. Sure, presents were nice, but more important was having a few friends at the house for a while. After celebrating there for a while, everyone left for destinations such as the Copper Kettle or another hangout. Yes, we bought alcohol with fake drivers’ licenses and sipped on the stuff. Cigarettes weren’t taboo then, and many of us started the habit during those high school years. When a couple of birthdays rolled around, I even had a girlfriend with whom celebrate the day. Mother was always home on birthdays and made sure they were special.

Adulthood changed those birthdays. Amy did more than she should have to spoil me. We always managed to meet up with Jim and his clan at Mothers. On that 40th celebration, she and my sister-in-law Brenda planned a party at the Karns community center. A crowd of friends attended and listened to tales on the two of us. My older brother sent a cassette tape that recalled all the horrible events that we caused over the years. The get together was highlighted by the appearance of a large, friendly dancer.

Lately, birthdays are more about just spending time with the folks I love. Lacey and Nick bring Madden with them from Nashville, and Dallas travels home from Chattanooga. They insist on giving presents, some of which are rather strange. I’d as soon they saved their money and just came home for a couple of days. Years earlier, the family stayed up late to watch movies or television shows or just to talk. My bed time comes much earlier now, and my eyes slam shut too soon to suit me.

For the last few years, Madden has stayed the week after my birthday. We find things to do to keep a young boy busy. This year was to be partially spent swimming in the river in the mountains, but days filled with rain caused us to change plans. Just having him stay here willingly is nice, and I try to keep him from being too bored.

This year, I greeted the anniversary of day of my arrival with more aches and pains. Knees and fingers ache, and a limp caused by inflammation of my Achilles tendon puts a crimp in the activities I want to enjoy. It sounds as if a case of the “gripes” is also present, but the truth is that I am thankful to be here each and every day. I love my wife, children, and grandson. Jim and I still hang out and find projects to keep us busy. I’ll take as many more birthdays as the good lord gives me because I want to share the days of each year with the people I love, even if I have to do so a bit slower.