I turned sixty the other day. Sixty! How on earth did that happen? I look in her mirror and still see that fresh-faced, innocent, um, 40 year-old I used to be. I have thankfully few wrinkles, owing to a fairly stress-free life but probably more to my “don’t give a shit” attitude than anything else. My hair is grayer (but not totally!), and there’s still lots of it in most places.
None of my other “milestone” birthdays (30, 40 or 50) were particularly upsetting, but for some reason this one is. I don’t like being sixty. I don’t even like the thought of it. But there you go.
Additionally, being born on September 11th is not great. It’s a somber day, not one of gleeful celebration. For my parent’s generation it’d be like being born on December 7th. So I was kind of hoping to keep this birthday low-key; let’s face it, I’m not ten. But you know…the more you want to not do something, the more your friends want to do it.
My Facebook wall filled with birthday greetings. From Atlanta to Florida to Washington state, all around the country and even around the world they came. The best comment was from my friend Daniel Speed: “Congrats on not dying for another year.” Gee, um, thanks Daniel!
My friend Mikey Nehring flies a firefighting helicopter for a company based out of Olympia, Washington. What with all the fires raging out here this summer he’s been bounced around quite a bit. But as luck (or something!) would have it he had gotten based up in Omak, Washington which is just a few miles up the road from Brewster where I’m at.
The big fires are all pretty much under control now, and Mikey’s ship got released on my birthday. Instead of going home, he came down to Brewster. We decided to not go out and get shit-faced drunk as we usually do and just did a big steak barbecue at our helicopter base.
Then our friend Nate Englund called. He dried cherries for another operator this past summer and because he's young and cool we got to know him. Great guy. He called from Missoula, Montana which is five hours away. “I’m inbound!” he said. What a nice gesture, coming over just for my birthday.
All of the other pilots have gone home or onto other gigs, but Lauren St. Romain is still around. She and Danny Smith (one of the owners) brought a big chocolate cake. Instead of 60 individual candles which surely would’ve elicited a visit from one of the Forest Service waterbombers she just got a six and a zero so I only had two to blow out instead of sixty. Thank you, Jesus.
So we had a nice party. No, there are no pictures. It was outside and mostly after dark.
I don’t want to get all mushy and sentimental. But I’ve said before and I’ll say again that I’m blessed with the best friends anyone could ever hope for. It is intensely gratifying and extremely humbling to know such good people. When it comes to friends, I have an embarrassment of riches. I thank you all.