The Weather Report

Another birthday has come and gone. A curious friend wishing me a happy one asked, “What time of day were you born?” She asked as if she had already guessed an answer. I replied, “3:30 o’clock AM.” “Your poor mother,” she sighed, as though the inconvenience of my early arrival explained something about me to her.

On Tuesday, the 8th of September, I was born at Mid-State Baptist Hospital of Nashville, (presently Baptist Hospital) in a time before dads were welcomed into the delivery room. Dr. Everett Clayton cut the cord and announced my gender to my mother. In a certain Indian culture the day one’s mother gets up from bed is considered the birth day. By that calculation, September 9th is the day I finished getting born.

A regular ritual at our Wednesday night dinner is the recognition of birthdays. It is a mixture of disclosure and remembrance by others. The start of a new decade always solicits a collective “ah” from the audience. But no demographic enjoys this weekly observance anymore than do the young. The children’s faces shine as their voices are heard, calling out, “seven,” “three” and occasionally “I’m eleven!”  The shared hope of those in attendance is that each child had the birthday they desired.

This September 8th, lying awake in bed and the birthday I had waited for over, I was unsettled.  A town-meeting of the mind had convened and sleep was elusive. The moderator’s voice was a familiar one recalling that in late summer or early autumn of the body, time becomes urgent. I was brooding on lost love, blunted desires and reduced expectations, activities that often come with the realization of being more than halfway to the grave.

Too macabre some may say, this thought of being more than halfway home. Yet, as so often is the case, thinking led me to thanking. Perhaps you, too, have experienced this idea that think and thank are one. The author Margaret Visser says nearly as much about gratitude as does the psalmist. She writes, “A person given what he or she wants does not just grab the thing that satisfies, but takes the trouble to think about who gave it and what this giving means.  Gratitude is not only an emotion, but also a matter of thought – a form of awareness.”

The link in etymology between thinking and thanking rescued me from the darkness. At fifty-two, forming schemes to succeed time is fruitless and little is to be gained from the recollection of glory days. Paying the night its due, I pledged to fill the morrow, if one was granted, with the business of the present. Thinking led me to give thanks for today. The simple expression of gratitude gave me ease and sleep soon followed. Rest was needed. It was 3:30 o’clock AM and there was much I still had to do.  

—Steven