Does 34 make me a grownup?

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 29, 2004

It’s official, I have celebrated birthday 34.

Thirty-four. I was driving to work the other morning thinking about my 34th, when I suddenly realized I have now lived one year longer than the earthly Christ lived.

By the time he was 33, he performed several miracles, created an entire religion and saved the world.

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When I think about it that way, I have to wonder what I’ve been doing with my life.

Birthdays are strange creatures.

They sneak up on you.

I don’t usually start thinking about my birthday until my buddy’s birthday in March.

For a short three months, we are exactly the same age.

I am now the age of my parents when I was in junior high school.

No matter how old they get, they’ll always seem to be in their 30s to me.

Actually, Mom turns 54 this year and Dad hits 60.

Since I’m now the age of my parents, do I have to be a total grownup?

Where did my childhood go?

Just this week, I heard once more a radio personality play a song and then call it &uot;classic Billy Joel.&uot;


Billy Joel is still around and the song they played was from my teenage years.

How can that be classic?

Does that mean that I’m now a classic?

When I was a kid, my birthday was second best to Christmas. Though it was not as elaborate, it was a day set aside special just for me. I always felt it was special because it fell on the second longest day of the year.

Now, things are different. I try not to look forward to my birthday and I try not to expect people to remember it. I no longer drop hints the day before and I keep silent the day of the supposed celebration not wishing to be overbearing on a day that should be just like any other day.

So to take my mind off this day, let me tell you about a friend of mine from Georgia.

I had not spoken to John in almost a year.

He called me back in January to wish me a Happy New Year.

We caught up.

His family was well and his job was going great.

I told him about moving back home and coming to work here.

He laughed about the fact that I returned to the newspaper where my career began.

The last thing he said to me on the phone was that he would talk to me on my birthday.

John was a fanatic about keeping track of people’s birthdays and anniversaries so I knew quite well it would be June before I heard from him again.

So in early May, when I opened my work email and saw his address, I thought how funny.

He was early.

Turned out that it was from his sister.

She said my name and address were listed in his papers and that I should be contacted.

It turned out that John was driving home to Alpharetta from his office in downtown when a child fell from the back of a pickup.

John swerved to miss the child and ended up running up under an 18-wheeler.

Although injured in the fall, the child did survive.

John died instantly.

John’s birthday is June 23rd, one day after mine.

He would have been 34 this year as well.

I have to wonder about the potential in his life left unanswered.

So thanks to John, this year I have learned to appreciate my birthday.

I have learned to live life to the fullest, because my whole world can change in the course of one year and you are not and I’m not promised another birthday.

Jay Thomas is managing editor of The Greenville Advocate can be reached at 383-9302, ext. 136 or via email at