03-19 bill patrick

Herald-Press Journalist William Patrick

I’m celebrating a milestone on April 17: In a few weeks, friends and family will sing to me, as I try to blow out a bonfire of 50 candles blazing atop a cake.

I have, somehow, survived a half century. Happy birthday to me.

Of course, no birthday would be complete without presents. As a child, in the weeks before my birthday, family members would ask what I wanted. I was more than prepared to give them an answer.

I’d already spent countless hours memorizing the toy section of the Sears catalog in the pre-historic era of B.I.: Before Internet.

Four decades later, friends pose the same question of an older and, I hope, wiser me: What do I want for my birthday?

Time, I say, wistfully.

On the birthdays of my childhood, I felt like a pirate after a pillage, holding my ‘Stretch Armstrong’ in one hand and my Nerf football in the other.

In my twenties, as a refined adult, I received gifts of video games, rather than the simple toys of my youth.

By the time I’d made it through my thirties and forties, I was immersed in stuff collected over the years, all bequeathed to me for making it from one April 17 to the next. What I didn’t have, however, was the time to enjoy it.

We always want what we don’t have.

Over the years, I have been gifted bottles of liquor I never thought I’d taste, received gift-cards to stores where I had only dreamt of shopping, and dined at restaurants where the main course was not wrapped in grease-soaked paper.

This year, mortality is tapping at my door. Each morning I wake up feeling new pains in places not sore the night before. I realize I still want what I don’t have – more time.

I’ve reached the point where I’m recalling more yesterdays than looking for tomorrows. This year, I no longer lust for stuff.

I’d trade in good ol’ Stretch Armstrong, along with every gift I’ve ever received, for one more afternoon on the playground with my two toddlers.

This year, after the singing and cake, I hope to unwrap an evening on the porch, watching the rain. I'd like to open an envelope and find a gift-card for a conversation with an old friend, or pull the bow off an afternoon enjoying a book I’ve been meaning to read.

And for those on a budget, an honest handshake, a friendly smile, or a kind embrace will do.

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