A blog by Lori Lyons

Monday, March 7, 2022

Sixty



“Life is mighty precious when there’s less of it to waste.” — Bonnie Rait

When I was a little girl, my birthdays weren't just special, they were a big deal. I mean, between my mama and my grannie, my birthdays became events

There was always cake from the Spic 'n Span bakery, always ice cream (Brown's Velvet Neapolitan), always Hawaiian Punch in Grannie's milk glass punchbowl, always lots of family and school friends, and always lots of presents. 

Some of these events got a little crazy. For one, my mom rented an entire set of kids' carnival rides a few blocks down the street. For my 10th, one of my classmates delivered a report on the following Monday detailing everything he ate at my birthday party.  At my 11th, several of my friends debuted our brand new "Granny dresses," which had just replaced mini-dresses as the hottest fashion trend. And Ricky Farmer kissed me while we were slow dancing at my 12th. I celebrated getting my driver's license at my 15th and got to drive my two besties to dinner.

Surprisingly, I didn't get a big Sweet 16 party, even though I really wanted one. I brought a cake to the local Shakey's Pizza Parlor, though, and invited a bunch of my friends. My 17th birthday was actually celebrated in one of my favorite bar/restaurants at the mall. The Louisiana drinking age was 18 then, so my friends put 18 candles on my cake. I was such a regular that no one even questioned it. 

My real 18th birthday was celebrated at another hometown restaurant with my mom and my boyfriend at the time. My 19th birthday was my first away from home. I cried in my college dorm room. I think several of the next birthdays were celebrated at various bars in New Orleans, including the venerable Pat O'Brien's. 

Then things got lowkey for a while -- until I turned 30 and gave myself a pretty big bash where everyone wore black to celebrate the "end of my youth." 


30 Hurt

Since then, there have been few truly memorable birthdays. I expected my husband would acknowledge my 40th and 50th in some ways, but, you know -- baseball season. But Mardi Gras landed on my 51st, then I took my two favorite friends to the beach for my 52nd, 


and threw myself an epic big 70s disco party for my 54th.



And just a few hours from now I will mark another BIG one. Sixty. 

Wow.

When I was young, I used to think 60 was so old. I remember when my Grannie and Grandpa were 60 for goodness sakes! They both retired from their jobs at 65. They were old people. Then my grannie lived to be 88. My grandpa lived to be 90. My mom died at 84.

I'm not a math whiz by any means, but if the law of averages holds up, that means I have about 20 years left to live on this earth. Just 20 years

That's not a lot of time...

to write that next book...

to get my others published...

to read that stack in the corner...

to move to the beach...

to visit Scotland and Hawaii...

to go to a college World Series...

to see my daughters get married and have a child...

to see my husband and my stepson win state championships...

to eat crabs and steak and cake with whipped icing...

and to celebrate birthdays....

I've been pretty sad thinking about this the past few weeks, realizing that I'm on the downslope of time and everything else. When I was 30, I wished I had the body I'd had at 25. When I was 40 I would have killed for the body I had at 30. At 50, I wished I could go back and slap my 40-year-old self. Now I'm 60 and wonder why I can't still dance down the street to the local park like I used to. Or pull weeds. Or sweep. 

And what the hell happened to my damn eyebrows?! 

I'm lucky, so far (knock wood), to have good health with only some aches and pains and a still-working brain. Maybe it's good genes. My mama, even though she had a heart murmur for most of her life, worked until she was 82, commuting every day to the French Quarter and partying at the casino every chance she got. She got a little dementia at the end, but I swear I believe it was the meds they had her on. My Grannie had a rougher time with diabetes and her arthritis, but she and Grandpa were entertaining the old folks at the old folks' homes in Houma well into their 70s. 

So, as I begin my 721st month on earth, I will try to be grateful for every moment I get and for every item I get to cross off that bucket list and for every moment of joy I find. I will try to fight time and keep my body and my brain in good working order. I will live, laugh, love, eat, drink and be merry. I will eat crabs and steak and cake as often as I can. I will try to get my family together as often as I can. I will listen to 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s music and sing the lyrics because I remember them and I will drag my husband to all the old bands' casino reunion concerts. I will dance in my car and while I'm doing the dishes. I will float in my pool until my solar lights come on. I will read trashy romance novels -- and some good ones too. I will binge watch Netflix. I will go to the beach. I will continue to try to teach young people how to write a sentence, a lead, and a headline. I will watch baseball and football games and every Olympics opening ceremony. I will drive with the windows down. I will plant more roses (even though Marty hates them). I will keep my plants alive. I will go out to dinner. I will cherish every moment with my kids and my grandkids, my grand nieces and nephews. I will love my dogs (even when they hog the bed). I will write when I need to and continue to tell stories, including those two next books. I will waste some of my time on Facebook. OK. I will waste a lot of my time on Facebook. 

I will remember that this is time that so many did not get -- my daddy, my brother, Parker, several of my classmates, kids I wrote about, my friend Connie and so many other Covid victims, the two Wandas, Pete, Mark, Ed, Brandon...

And I'm going to celebrate every birthday as though it might be my last because I always do -- starting with Saturday's 60s themed party for old hippies.

Peace.



 



Saturday, February 5, 2022

Twenty-one






When Gail Lodrigue handed me that tiny shrimp-colored baby on that cold January day 21 years ago, I thought all my dreams had been answered.

I could not have been more wrong. 

Besides all the years I had thought about the day I would become a mom someday, I had been actively dreaming of having a child for the previous six years. No, I had been actively working on it. So when a nearly complete stranger handed me hers just a few moments after giving birth, it was the culmination of years of work. I thought it also would be the end of years of pain and angst.

But as any other mother will tell you, nothing hurts more than being a mom. And it begins almost immediately.

When Nurse Danielle came in to our little makeshift corner of the NICU and asked if we had held our new baby girl yet, she was our hero. But a few minutes later when she made my baby cry, scream and squirm while she held the little shrimp under the faucet and began scrubbing away the remnants of her birth, I was ready to punch Nurse Danielle in the face.

And later that night when we decided not to force the hospital staff to give us a room because they were scarce that weekend and we decided to just go spend the night at my brother’s house nearby, I spent the whole night regretting it. I tossed and turned and, when I did sleep, had nightmares about something happening to my new baby girl while I wasn’t there. It’s 21 years later and I still have guilt over leaving her that night.

But, that’s what being a mom is — a lifetime of worry, guilt and pain for your child. I’m now 21 years in to that life and, fortunately, it hasn’t been too bad. There have been no major disappointments or broken dreams. She went through school as an Honor Roll student, had friends, sang in the choir, won the Young Authors contest a few times, didn’t have a bully. She didn’t fall in love so there was no broken heart to contend with. The only drama we had was when she failed to get into the district’s Talented Art program — twice, which is utterly and completely absurd if you ask me. Don't get me started. 

Then she got into the college of her choice with a full ride, earned a spot in its choir, became an editor at the school newspaper, had her bestie for a roommate and scored more achievements and honors. And now she does have a boyfriend, one who doesn’t make her cry. 

And now that she is entering her final year of college, she is full of big dreams. She wants to be a journalist, but not like her mama. She wants to write about music and bands, maybe work for one as a publicist. She wants to get married and have children, and she wants to move away from our tiny town and spread her wings. 

And as much as that thought hurts my heart, I have to accept that her dreams are now my dreams. You see, once we become moms, our dreams don’t really matter that much anymore. Oh, I still dream about living in a beach house one day, but more than that, I dream for my kids. I dream that my stepson will win a state championship in football and be lauded as the Coach of the Year. I dream that every football player who goes to Tulane will meet and remember my stepdaughter and thank her for all that she does. I also hope that she finds her prince. And I hope that my daughter becomes a wonderfully successful writer in a big city with a handsome significant other who treats her right (the way her dad treats me), that she as as many children as she wants with ease. And pets. And that she lives a long, healthy happy life.

And that she comes to visit me at the beach sometime.