I turned 50 this week. It’s an event I’ve been both celebrating and dreading all year.
I hear that 50 is the new 40 but let’s face it, that’s crap. To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen — I knew 40. 40 was a friend of mine. 50, you’re no 40.
At 40, no doctor suggested that “at your age, you’re going to have to eat a lot less just to stay the same.” At 40, no doctor recommended a test that sounds a lot like a “dolan-oscopy” or told me to start taking baby aspirin to “lesson my risk of heart attack or stroke.” Stroke? Seriously? From turning a page on the calendar? I wasn’t at risk for a stroke yesterday but by today I am?
But before this post turns into a full-fledged pity party complete with streamers and red balloons, let me tell you how I spent my birthday eve. I had the opportunity to hear a couple tell the story of their international adoption. I love to hear adoption stories, but this one in particular touched me profoundly.
After the couple had been matched and bonded with their children, the rules regarding adoption in the children’s birth country changed. The couple was told that, in fact, they would not be able to adopt those children. Rather than give up, they fought bureaucracy at home and abroad. Ultimately after several years, countless flights and the wife living in the birth country for over a year, they finally brought their children home a few months ago. Of all the stories I’ve heard since becoming a parent myself, this one was the most powerful.
Yet like all adoption stories, there are ways it reminds me of our own. K was born in San Diego, in the spring. It was a beautiful place, in a beautiful season. We went to the zoo and the beach. We went to Sea World and the park, but like Dorothy in Oz all I really wanted was to go home. Until a state bureaucracy gave the okay, we couldn’t leave California. We could travel the entire state but couldn’t venture beyond its borders. Well, to be accurate – my husband and I could leave. K couldn’t. To have my movements controlled by a nameless, faceless entity was something I won’t ever forget. I remember talking on the phone with my mother, wondering when she would get to meet my baby, her granddaughter. This time for us lasted 15 days; to have had it last years is unimaginable.
I was younger then, and I was thinner. I wasn’t even my old friend 40. Now I’m older and rounder. I can’t find my waist and I’m losing my chin. But — I have my family and we’re home. That faceless, nameless bureaucrat provided documents that prove to the world we are K’s parents. We have 13 plus years full of memories of the things we’ve done and the place we’ve been. And no one can tell us where we can and can’t go. All in all, I’d say it was a pretty good trade. And I am very grateful to have been reminded of that fact.
Now I just need a good deal on some baby aspirin.