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Volume 14, Issue 13 ~ March 30 - April 5, 2006

Bay Reflections

When Your Son Turns 40,
How Old Does that Make You?

by Sandra Olivetti Martin

When I’d reached a certain age — just about the time I imagined I’d finally gotten life figured out — my mother put me back in my place.

“You’re so old I’m going to start lying about your age,” she said.

My son is older now than I was then.

A few hours before April Fool’s Day, this first-born son who has never ceased to surprise me turns 40.

Having been there myself, I know a bit about what 40 makes him.

He’s Atlas, bearing the world on his shoulders yet making it look light as a basketball. I know because at the same age I was Wonder Woman, performing amazing feats as if they were second nature. In her time, Elsa, my mother, who made it all look so easy, was Super Woman. Yet she was awed by what her mother could manage.

Titanic powers are what it takes to uphold the demands of middle age, that glorious couple of decades when you’re the main character on life’s stage. All at one time, you’re husband, wife or lover; parent; and working person — likely, very hard-working person. Your family thrives because of you. Or fails — and yes, you know all too well that failure is an option. You’ve lived long enough to see that not all dreams come true. It just can’t be your option.

Is there any age more wonderful?

Certainly not the fretful teens nor the bravado 20s. But turn 30, or 35 — 37 was my certain age — and this is your time. All you’ve learned and been comes together, and you feel your powers and say Now! This is my hour! I will not waste it. I will taste and savor it all.

I’ll have my cake, and eat it and smear the crumbs all over my body. That was my motto at that certain age.

In that, I was following in my mother’s footsteps. I hope now that my 40-year-old son is old enough, he’s walking that same path.

For his 40th birthday, I wish him all the joy — and just enough of the fretting to add a steel-sharp edge — of strutting his hour on the stage. We’ve bought him a tuxuedo — his third — my husband and I, so he can play his part in style.

The years have passed quick as Rip Van Winkle’s good night’s sleep. I yawned, and time flew. Now, wiping the sleep out of my eyes, I find I’ve traded places.

Where I so smugly was, Alex is — with his own children, and they the advanced ages of four and five. Where Elsa feared to tred, I am.

So my second question is what his age makes me.

That, I now see, is the same question Mother bumped up sharp against a quarter century ago when she decided to lie about my age.

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