I hate the term "turning 42," because that is kind of like Larry Miller's line, "you become 21, you turn 30, you're pushing 40, you reach 50, you make it to 60, by then you built up so much speed... you HIT 70!"
I considered typing, "What I want to tell my 12 year old self what 42 was like." But most of that thought path kicks in this instinct to protect the younger me, going, "You are RIGHT, your life IS HELL! You father is as bad as you think, you're not crazy!" Then I want to call social services.
Did I think this what 42 would feel like? Um. No. But that's a red herring because I didn't really ever think about it. I have no idea what 52 will feel like, so if I'm still alive, I am sure I'll be like, "I'm still alive?" I guess the only surprise is I don't feel as old as one might assume I "should" feel when I am two score and two years.
It was a Thursday in November of 1968.
When I was born, it was the hight of the 60s counter-culture era. The Beatles were still together, and Woodstock wouldn't happen until next year. My parents were living in Cyprus, and my mother was at a British Military hospital recovering from pushing out a 10lb Viking baby into the world. I dwarfed the other puny British babies in the nursery, who were mostly 5-6lbs. I used to have a photo of that, where I was like an albino Goliath worm among some wrinkly tan larvae in a pond of hospital bassinets. Due to time zone confusion, my maternal grandparents thought I was born on the day before, and for many years a lot of my baby stuff had engraved the wrong date.
A lot of my body was the result of a lot of Greek food, and the atoms that I was comprised of were made from the soils of the Mediterranean, warmed by the tropical sun. But my parents were second generation northern Swedes from Swedish immigrants. Not exactly tropical people. My bulk is to keep me warm, and my skin is oily to keep frostbite at bay. I go into strange mild hibernation when the winter sun casts its weak shadows on a cold landscape. My people drank and stayed in snow-buried lodges during the winter, living off the accumulated fat from the feasts of a short summer. We like heavy protein and sugar. We only went out from November to March to get more firewood, check on any livestock not living in the same house with us (like our reindeer herds), and to hunt and get more protein and fat. We were not skinny tanned people like the Swedes today who migrate in vast flocks to Greece and Italy. Thus, unlike my people, I dislike pickled and fermented anything. Maybe it is an acquired taste, but I don't want to acquire it, thank you. My body's cells have been replaced a bazillion times since then, most consisting of processed chemicals and other waste I have called food. But on the eve of my 42nd, I find myself eating comfort foods: lingonsylt and knackerbrod with Farmer's Cheese. Along with coffee, a Mediterranean-based drink Swedes adapted a few centuries ago.
As a child, I mostly wondered what "32" would feel like, because I recall on of the first things I did with a calculator was find out how old I'd be in the year 2000. 42 wasn't on my radar except as a concept of various numbers where 42 was "The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything." I'd be 42 in 2010. That was a meaningless thought and I cared more about Halley's Comet in 1986 than anything else. And that was a SEVERE disappointment, let me tell you. When my dad was 42, it was 1979. He was working his way up in the defense contract industry, having changed companies twice since we moved out to DC in 1974, leaving behind people whom he didn't care for as a standard procedure. He had a kid who was ten, which was a crown jewel of angst in a marriage that had died because of said kid. His wife was an alcoholic, he lived in a suburban home he despised, and the only joy he got was retreating to his yacht he had just purchased about a year previously. He had no friends, and didn't need them.
At 42, I am in a marriage with a woman I love. I have a son who's 20, and we live in a house with a friend who rents our guest room. Unlike my father, I have money problems. Our family has health issues far worse than my parents had. But I have a huge wealth of friends, a very active social life, and I spend a lot of my days wondering which social invite to choose for what day. I help at several non-profits, and volunteer my time making sure people have a great time at some large entertainment event, whether it's administrative junk at an anime convention, security at a roller derby bout, or going on stage and presenting awards to a bunch of silly but lovable actors, authors, and costumers. I have a vast wealth of love and friends. I live for the experience, swapping stories with deeply interesting people, and having adventures where I question my own sanity daily. I'll probably die young.
But I'd rather have all this than the money my father has.
I couldn't have more kids, despite a lot of trying. So I started taking in other people's kids. This is unfair because I get the fun part of kids, really, and the biological parents have to deal with the health care, the angst, bad dates, candy restriction, and the YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND ME AT ALL WWWAAAUGHHHH!! arguments. Ha HA! :P But recently, I was again reminded of my influence on them, and how much I will gain immortality that way. Maybe nobody will remember my name or even know I existed, but when my great grandchildren learn a magic word (that Joann Hankamer taught me; the word so magic, it cannot be spelled), it will be because of me. When Chance gives advice to her nieces about how to talk to children as equals with a different set of experience, it will be influenced because of me. There's Kathleen and Brian, baby Rachel, and whomever the Trent, Dennie, and Stamper kids will be... I'll be there. Probably letting them play with my Legos, daring them to eat an entire cupcake in one bite, and telling them silly Swedish stories.
My father turned 73 this year. Given the family history, he's not got long left. But in his defense, I really don't think I'll make it to 73. Hell, I may not make it to 50. But I was told when I was 18 I'd never see past 20, so I am completely sucking up bonus rounds like that annoying rich kid at the video game arcade who had a sock full of quarters.
So see you next year at 43! :P