"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Compatible Numbers

Toby's birthday is tomorrow. Four years ago, in a kennel in the country, he was born on a day that was ordinary for us in every way. We hadn't gotten serious yet about searching for a dog who would fill the still tender hole left when Riley died the winter before. We didn't even know that there was a breeder of golden retrievers twenty minutes from our house. We had no idea, six weeks later,  when we chose the biggest pup in the litter, and the one who seemed the least fazed by anything going on around him, just how extraordinary he would be.

Four is a good number. Round and compatible. In a dog's life, four is no longer puppy—even for a golden.  After many months of thinking perhaps he would never soften into legendary golden mellowness, one more time, he's fooled us. Four is the perfect number for him.

Toby is still playful. He loves his walks. He gets neurotically focused when we play ball in the back yard. He offers toys for tugging.

He is still self-possessed. He does nothing without a reason, never just out of obedience. He chases squirrels, barks at deer both real and imagined, and often decides he'd like to go outside in the middle of the night. No is not an answer he understands.

But more than anything now, he's affectionate. Finally, he's become something resembling the dog we thought we wanted. He frets if one of us comes home late, and grins with glee when the missing person finally arrives. After two years of having me home mostly full time, this fall has been hard for him. When I am home now he'll sprawl where I have to step over him, or follow me around and do his head-bury in my legs every chance he gets.

My birthday is Saturday. Sixty years ago in a hospital in Spokane, I was born to a nineteen-year-old girl already divorced from my father. While she didn't pick me, and her life definitely was not following the path of her dreams, she loved the baby who was me.

The girl I became was not what my mom expected or even understood. Outspoken. Curious. Fearless. Always asking questions and frustrated if the answers didn't satisfy. A nose for truth and not-truth. Challenging. Strong-willed. Impatient. Everything she was not.

And by the time I had mellowed enough to reach beyond the walls we both erected to survive our relationship, she was lost behind hers. I wonder sometimes, even now, if there might not have been a way for her to have found her way back to love.

Sixty is a good number. Round and compatible. Someone said recently that when we turned fifty it was easy to still believe we had half our life to go. It's not out of the realm of possibility to live to one hundred. That's not as easy to rationalize at sixty. One hundred and twenty seems neither possible nor desirable.  I've spent this last year knowing it was coming, and uncertain how it would feel. It turns out sixty is the perfect number for me.

Like Toby, I still possess all those same qualities from my youth. And, like Toby, more than anything I've become the human version of a loyal and affectionate dog. I'm ready to be here, and eager for the adventure that is this next leg of my journey. Full of gratitude to have arrived healthy, surrounded by love, and able to love. Grateful for dreams demanding fulfillment. Joyfully grateful to be sharing this birthday season with Toby. My gift. My buddy. My teacher.


25 comments:

Wanda said...

60 is the new 4! Happy birthday, my friend.

Stacy Crawford said...

Happy Birthay Deb...and Toby!

Rita said...

Happy birthday to you and Toby! I turned 60 in March and was thinking the same thing...over halfway now! ;) But it is good. Very good. It's a magical age. Have a very happy birthday. :):)

BECKY said...

Happy, happy birthday to you and Toby! I'm a bit confused at times...well, lots of times!..but when you said your birthday is Saturday, I assume you mean NEXT Saturday?...Because you said "IS", not "WAS."
I've just read through about five of your last posts and I don't know why I haven't been by here to see them! I hope to do better soon!

Katie Gates said...

What a beautiful post, Deb. You and Toby both seem to be in such a peaceful place. Happy Birthday season to both of you!

yaya said...

Have a very happy birthday Deb and I hope Toby has one too...both of you deserve the best of life! He probably would be happy with a new chew toy or bone however!

Barb said...

I think 60 is a really good number, Deb - you'll like it. Happy Birthday to you and to Toby. Luckily, you're both just right!

#1Nana said...

Happy Birthday to both of you. Perhaps as I've gotten older my memory is failing me, butit seems to me that 60 isn't much different from 59 or even 55.

Donna said...

You are so philisophical, a quality I both admire and like. If we lived closer, I would want you for a friend. You have the ability to analyze a situation and adapt to it in an amazing way. I've watched as you blog your way through and share the most tragic of circumstances (something I cannot do) and come out the other side better for it all. I feel that helps others as a wonerful example for the rest of us.
60 will look good on you for sure! I had trouble with it. It just sounds old! Again, I'll watch for you to inspire me!
As for Toby....my canine friends have been and are such sweet companions to me too. I enjoy the one I have now so much. He's getting older though and has some real health problems.
And such is life...a new little problem each day and how to solve it. I guess by 60, it should somehow come easier...huh? Happy Birthday Deb!!!!

Lilith said...

Happy birthday to both you and Toby. It's funny how life gives just what we need to learn our next lesson.

Terri Tiffany said...

You share such depth in each of your posts that sometimes I am not sure where to comment--I wish you were here in person--it's that kind of conversation I would have with you. As a person closing in on 60, I was happy to read how you felt about it and that your life is full again!

DJan said...

Happy birthday to both of you. Sixty is simply a number, but it's a nice fine one. Now that seventy is right around the corner for me, sixty seems relatively youthful. It's all in your perspective. And happy birthday to beautiful Toby, the smiling redhead in your life.

Julia said...

I remember when you celebrated 40 and we shared a classroom. I love you!

Linda Myers said...

Sound thoughts on turning 60. I traveled to Turkey when I was 60 in a group that included a few retired people. I asked one man for his advice. He said, "Don't squander your time."

I did a lot of that when I was younger, as time seemed limitless. Now it doesn't, and now I don't.

Happy birthday!

Mark Lyons said...

:)

I loved the way you tied Toby's story and your story together. In every way, you are both incredible. Happy Birthday!!

I Love you
Mark

Desiree said...

You write SO BEAUTIFULLY, Deb and this piece is particularly endearing and poignant! Happy Birthday to you both! Big hug xoxo

deborahjbarker said...

Happy Birthday fellow Scorpio! I will be 55 tomorrow so not far behind you. Happy birthday to Toby too - our older dog Keano, will be ten on the 4th. Lovely picture of Toby, Flossie will be quite taken! :-)

Wanda..... said...

Happy Birthday Deb and Toby! I'm halfway finished with the 60's and find they've all proven to be good numbers!

Sandi said...

I didn't realize you and Toby celebrated your birthdays so close together, but it's perfect! Sixty is good, and you're right, it's a nice round number. It's a number with lots of possibilities . . . think of all the factors of 60 and the many numbers it is a multiple of!! (That's were we're at in math these days!)

We'll have to celebrate that we're both sharing this special year when we get together in a couple weeks!

Love and hugs to you!

Retired English Teacher said...

You have woven a wonderful tale of completeness and acceptance. By completeness, I mean that you have reached that point in your life where you have integrated all of the facets of your youth with the mature and wise woman you now have become. Sixty is great because one can be youthful and wise at the same time.

I love how you have compared yourself to your dear Toby. Happy birthday to you both!

Retired Knitter said...

Beautifully written.

I turned 60 - 4 years ago ... 60 and 4? :-)

Anyway I love the story of that beautiful furry face! I mean you dog, of course. :-)

Dee Ready said...

Dear Deb, thank you for sharing both Toby's special birthday and yours with us and for doing so with such deep-down wisdom about the enfolding of our youth into our present moment.

Your lyrical writing always touches me at the deep center of myself where Oneness dwells.

Sixty opens up the years of fulfillment in many ways. Welcome to the new adventure!

Peace as ever and always.

Deb Cushman said...

You're a beautiful sixty! You set a glorious example for those of us who are only a little over a year behind you!

Kathryn Grace said...

A belated happy birthday with wishes for an outstanding year, the first of many to come.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Such a well rounded piece. Toby and you, at 60. I know that you have thought about this birthday for some time. Often we worry about something that doesn't seem quite so bad when it comes along. Perhaps we have worried ourselves out or there was no reason for the fear in the first place.

Congratulations to you on this fine milestone. Be good to yourself and celebrate.