I have mixed feelings about birthday parties after 21. Not so much for other people, but for myself. I suppose I would just like to let the day marking me one year older slip by unnoticed. Several years ago when my friend Norma hit a milestone birthday, her husband flew some of her out of town friends in for a surprise party. She was really surprised, especially when she found out we were staying at her house.

That night I woke up feeling like I was on a cruise ship in a tropical storm. I camped out on the cool tile floor in the bathroom. It was convenient and soothing at the same time. I had evidently eaten something past it’s expiration date and I was so sick, at one point, I wanted my mother even though I was almost 40 years old.

Why is it when things get tough or we get sick, no matter how old we are we want someone to take care of us and tell us it’s going to be OK? Someone older and wiser than we are. A friend and I were talking the other day about how challenging it is to take care of aging parents. Her mother has Alzheimer’s and she’s feeling the strain of role reversal; daughter taking care of the parent.

It’s an odd spot to be in. She said, “It’s like you want to ask, ‘So when are the grown ups going to show up?’ I’m sure it’s because the grownups in our lives have always taken care of everything.”

I’d never really thought of it that way, but I suppose it’s true. It’s probably uncomfortable because being a grown up carries responsibility we don’t necessarily want to deal with. But when all the olders and wisers are all gone or not capable, it’s our turn to step up to the plate.

I’m not sure I like being the grown up, but I suppose, with time, I’ll get used to it.

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