Saturday is my birthday. It’s also my youngest son’s birthday.
While you could say any birthday is important to the person having it, this day will be a particularly momentous one for each of us.
For Joe, it’s his 16th birthday. This, of course, means as soon as the Department of Motor Vehicles opens again, he’ll go take a driver’s test and when he parallel parks without crushing the orange cones then he’ll be able to legally drive around town by himself.
Oh, and he’ll need to remember not to use cruise control during the test.
One of my children — whom I’ll refrain from naming — put the car on cruise control during his or her driver’s test and was weaving through traffic near the entrances to Beaver Run. You know, so he or she wouldn’t have to hit the brakes and break cruising speed.
When they returned to the DMV, the instructor announced that this particular child had failed the test.
“Why?” the child asked.
“You were using cruise control,” he said.
“You didn’t say I couldn’t use cruise control,” the child said.
“But you were in a residential area,” he said.
“But I was going the speed limit,” said the child, who one day may or may not become a lawyer.
It went downhill from there. A fine line appeared between reckless driving and high performance driving. The DMV employee was on one side of it, and the brand-new 16-year-old was on the other.
Guess who won that debate?
And guess who won’t be using cruise control before he receives his license? When you’re the fourth child in a family, you have the privilege of learning from the mistakes of those who came before you.
For me, Saturday’s my 50th birthday.
I began this week telling myself that this particular birthday is no big deal.
Then I came home to two messages on my answering machine. When you get a message at home, you know it’s either a robocall from your child’s school — or this time of year, from a political candidate — or it’s from somebody who wants to avoid calling you on your cell phone and telling you in person.
The first call was from an insurance agent representing the company that holds the whole life policy my father started for me the day I was born.
The agent was congratulating me on the incredible milestone of having a life insurance policy with a golden anniversary.
“Your life insurance policy is older than me!” he exclaimed.
The next message was from — I’m not kidding — an insurance agent representing the company that holds the term life policy I started sometime after I got married.
His tone was more somber, saying he was here for me if I needed to make adjustments.
He might as well have said, “You know, because you’re going to die. Oh yeah, and don’t forgot to schedule your colonoscopy! Ha ha ha ha ha!”
Happy birthday, son. Drive safely.
And happy birthday to me. Update your paperwork.