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Turning eighty

Maria Massa | Thursday, December 5, 2013

I’ve never celebrated my 80th birthday, so I can’t be sure how it would feel to have a close group of friends and family around me, celebrating the fact that I managed to dodge enough bullets to make it through 80 years on this planet, though I can imagine it would be pretty amazing.
Over Thanksgiving break, my grandpa turned 80, and his six kids (my dad included) threw him a surprise birthday party. He and his sweetheart, my grandma, drove from St. Louis to Nashville to celebrate the holiday at our house a few days prior, not knowing that Saturday, after we said our goodbyes, we would pack up and follow them back to St. Louis for the celebration.
While they were still at our house, my younger brother and I made it our mission to see how many stories we could get my grandpa to tell. Eighty years and six wild kids mean that the man has a story for everything – I swear I’ve never heard the same one twice. The highlight was hearing about the time he caught my troublemaker uncle shooting a pellet gun at old ladies from a tree in the Shop-n-Save parking lot. Or maybe it was the time he and my grandma got a half-hour down the road on the way back from a family vacation and realized they were missing a kid and none of the others bothered to tell them.
Hearing all these stories and knowing that we were about to celebrate this man’s birthday whose cake, properly lit, would probably burn my aunt’s house down, made us all talk about how crazy it will be to turn 80, if we’re lucky enough to make it that far. We talked about the number of people we’ll know and crazy stories we’ll have, the number of adventures we’ll go on and holidays we’ll celebrate, the number of times we will have said “feels like just yesterday … ” and muse over how quickly time flies by.
I’ve always feared getting older and how fast the “best days of my life” are passing me by, but this weekend skewed my perspective just a bit. I’m not promising I won’t still cry at all the “lasts” that will happen this year as a senior, like I did standing in the student section at the end of the BYU game last weekend, because I will. But when I’m done crying, I’ll think about how all these experiences are now a part of me, and are part of the arsenal of stories I can tell at my 80th birthday party, like my grandpa did this Saturday. And that’ll be pretty cool.

Contact Maria Massa at mmassa@nd.edu
The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.