The Day I Turned 74

by on April 30, 2012 · 41 comments

in Culture, Life Events, Popular

Woke up on April 18th
at about 9:04.
It was my birthday.
Number 74.
Stepped my big old feet
down upon the floor,
reached down to pick up
a paper clip or something
that caught my eye
next to my bedroom door
and all of a sudden I felt
a wee tug of my sacroiliac
and then my back
seemed like it was being attacked
by an alligator
in a biting contest, Jack!
I hit the deck
like a concrete filled sack,
writhing on the carpet,
moaning in tongues,
and somehow I struggled
and stood up
like a boxer trying to beat the count
and when I looked in the mirror I found out
I was shaped like a seven
and I thanked heaven
it wasn’t an eight or a three
and then I took me
down the stairs,
fully aware
that if the seven happened to be
top heavy
that could be the end of me.
It was like trying to lean forward
and lean backward
at the same time –
hokey pokey like skills, to which,
I had never paid much mind
in my previous 73 years.
But I managed to
somewhat get myself together
and walk to Grant’s Deli
for a coffee with cream
as per my daily routine.
On this trek
my back played with my posture
like a hyper kid toying with an erector set.
After a couple of feeble
wobbly strides
I morphed into a crooked small case “r”
and when I stepped off the curb,
trying to wave at a neighbor who
drove by in a car
there was a pull
where my back
meets my left side
and an electric-like current
shot through my right side
and my lower body
did a left face
and my upper body
did a right face
and all of me yearned
to do an about face
and the pain just wouldn’t quit
and a car was coming
and I thought for a moment
it might feel nice to get hit
but some adrenalin
kicked in
and I got out of the way
as the driver texted away
and I made my way
into the store that day
looking like a tornado
had gotten a hold of my torso
and I walked home
holding my cup of Joe
like I was soliciting alms –
with burning palms
as I had forgotten to
wrap the container
with one of those heat shielding cardboard things.
I felt like Daffy Duck
having a bad dream.

Later, with my knees up
I lay on my living room floor
and then I forced myself up
and out the door
to do the things
that I live for:
met with Seema Sueko,
executive artistic director
of the Mo’olelo
Performing Arts Company
about tying it closer
to the diversity
within the San Diego community,
a goal she approaches diligently
with tenacity,
fully devoted to concepts like
liberty
and equality,
always pursuing such
interestingly,
lyrically,
cleverly,
theatrically,
ever so capably,
effectively,
and kinesthetically;

Later in the day,
I made my way
to a board of education
candidates forum
to see what they might have to say
about Uncle Sam
having his way
with our students,
our children, at their schools every day
trying to entice them
into the military
like a hunter spreading honey
leading to a bear trap;
they answered with
something about
having to have parents
involved with matters like that
but nothing about
if they would be willing to do that
and I decided to leave it at that
and headed to Chiquita’s
to bring the day to an end
with a whiskey sour
and a dinner with Maria,
my dear Chicana friend.

In the late hours
I laid in my bed and thought back on the day
and the nice time I had
celebrating my birthday with my kids on Monday
as we couldn’t all do it on the actual day.
And I thought of my Nancy whose birthday was just two days away.
With a few tears in my eyes
I wished so much that she was alive.
Oh, she would have been such
a sexy 65
but at the same time
I felt so grateful that I was alive,
back spasms and all,
and I drifted off into a dream
and slept with ease,
and after rising the next day
quite gingerly,
realizing that no pain was descending upon me,
forcing me to my knees,
I decided that being 74 years old
is going to be a breeze.

{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar JMW April 30, 2012 at 10:09 am

Happy Birthday, dude! 74 more, if you can handle it. Love that shirt. Felt that pain; it’s a good one. You made me laugh again.

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avatar Ernie McCray April 30, 2012 at 10:14 am

74 more would be nice – for the bottom line at whatever “Very Old Folks Home” I’m at.

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avatar Linda Haynes April 30, 2012 at 10:42 am

Again you bring the humor to us even if it was the agonizing pain I experience daily. Do something, sit for 30 minutes & so on all day. You are truly a powerfully blessed friend. Happy Happy Belated Birthday my brother & many many more to come.

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avatar Ernie McCray May 2, 2012 at 5:27 pm

I hope we both have many many more and depart the planet as real old ass BADGERS!

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avatar Linda Haynes May 2, 2012 at 7:11 pm

AMEN to that

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avatar wendyEllen April 30, 2012 at 12:43 pm

jeez Ernie..I live with back pain almost constantly..Dr. David Brown is a life saver…I wonder if you have used him..I swear by him when I am in San Diego!!

Happy Birthday..I just turned 58 on Sat….took a dance class yesterday in honor of all the aches and pains..

still dancin….as much as I can!

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avatar Ernie McCray April 30, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Yeah, I use to go to David all the time but I haven’t in years. I’m always aware that I have a back although it doesn’t do that little birthday thing much.

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avatar chris dotson April 30, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Lookin good, man! Sounding better, too. Some things do improve with age.

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avatar Ernie McCray April 30, 2012 at 5:01 pm

It just lasted a day which is the usual except it had been a long time since my back had gone all the way out.

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avatar Ernie McCray April 30, 2012 at 5:03 pm

I think age improves with age.

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avatar chris dotson April 30, 2012 at 5:20 pm

LOL! WORD!!!!!!!:)

btw: i switch my desk to a standup desk about 80% of the time which has helped my lower back issues. As I recall, u r an accomplished athlete and I do not have any injuries to overcome. Still, standing more than sitting has helped reduce much of my chronic and recurring pain.

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avatar Ernie McCray April 30, 2012 at 10:14 pm

I do yoga kind of stretches, not as much as I should, but fairly often and my major workout, nice fast paced walks pretty much keeps my back in order and dance – and fortunately with my back I have more funny feelings, little discomforts all the time more than pain but the other day, as I laid it out, it just went off the deep end like it had it in for me or something.
I should stand more but sometimes I’ll catch myself sitting too much as writers will do and stand and stretch. Well, good luck to us both, Chris, with our back sagas.

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avatar judi Curry April 30, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Thanks for letting me know what is in store for me next year! I can see it now – if you, with your long legs looked like a “small case r” I can’t even imagine what I would like in the same circumstance. Hope you are feeling great now.

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avatar Jacquenese Price April 30, 2012 at 9:27 pm

Happy Birthday to one of my FAVORITE people in the world; much love and everlasting happiness to you!

Jacque

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avatar Ernie McCray April 30, 2012 at 10:15 pm

Thanks, Jacque. I love you too.

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avatar Gwen Pierce April 30, 2012 at 10:48 pm

I love it!!! You better work it! Happy birthday, young man!

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avatar Ernie McCray May 1, 2012 at 12:03 am

Young man, now that’s something I haven’t heard in a long long long time. Thanks.

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avatar J Cannon April 30, 2012 at 11:09 pm

Happy Solar Return, Ernie!
Loved your poem about transcending the creaky body and reaching for good spirits.
May you continue to lift us up with your sense of humor and insights for many many many more years.

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avatar Ernie McCray May 1, 2012 at 12:02 am

Creaky is just another way of being (smile).

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avatar june gottleib April 30, 2012 at 11:25 pm

I LOVED your poetic account of your special day, Ernie Dear. You are a joy to read and pretty good to look at, too – Continued good Humor and happiness to you – on your birthday and every day. xxxJune

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avatar Ernie McCray May 1, 2012 at 10:46 am

Thanks so much, PAULA (smile).

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avatar Dave Baldwin May 1, 2012 at 12:07 am

Happy Birthday, Ernie! I turned 74 on March 30th so I can tell you that the next several weeks will be great for all the body parts. I can’t say what will come after that. I’m glad that your back is behaving itself again.

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avatar Ernie McCray May 1, 2012 at 10:46 am

I bribed it.

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avatar Kinya May 1, 2012 at 2:42 am

Granddad, I don’t know if I wished you a happy birthday or not….. Happy belated birthday…… I love you~ “K” crew (Kinya, Kiara, Kameron, Kalaina, and Keilan …Hopefully we can make it back to San Diego to you…..:0)

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avatar Ernie McCray May 1, 2012 at 10:47 am

Now, that would be a birthday present.

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avatar David Valladolid May 1, 2012 at 7:24 am

Brother Ernie: First, thank you for all you have done to make this a better world! I want to join all your family and friends to wish you a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I highly recommend that you get into YOGA to keep your body flexible and limber. Also, remember you are less than 1/2 way in your life journey so don’t program your departure by sensing that life is our seventies is the last stretch. Take care of yourself and continue inspiring the world with your poetry! Un Abrazo, David

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avatar Ernie McCray May 1, 2012 at 10:48 am

Will do just that.

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avatar Linda Newsum May 1, 2012 at 7:39 am

Happy Birthday Ernie! It just doesn’t seem that long ago that we were celebrating your 50th (that’s not old for a mountain), and then just the other day was your 70th…the pace quickens even as our bodies slow

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avatar Ernie McCray May 1, 2012 at 10:51 am

It is quick. I was working with some 7th graders in San Ysidro yesterday and we were talking about aging, at one point, and I was telling them how they’ll be my age before they know it because I remember being 12 so well. And, of course, they looked at me with a “Right.” “Okay,” I said, “I won’t be able to tell you I told you so.”

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avatar john June 6, 2012 at 8:44 am

I think it’s even more of a void that they won’t be able to tell you they are sorry for not believing you when they find out you were right.
Nature’s cruelest joke is not that you aren’t going to want to do the same things when you are older as you did when you were young, but that you couldn’t even if you wanted to.

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avatar Ernie McCray June 6, 2012 at 10:59 am

Got that right.

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avatar Paula H.V. May 1, 2012 at 8:19 am

Happy belated, Ernie. As long as your brain keeps producing such great writing, and as long as your heart keeps telling you to fight social injustice, you are YOUNG!!

And thanks to all the people who gave tips about back problems. A standup desk? Hmm.

Love, Paula

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avatar Ernie McCray May 1, 2012 at 10:53 am

I figure I am YOUNG compared to something.

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avatar Seema Sueko May 1, 2012 at 9:28 am

Hi Ernie!!

I’m so honored to make it into your fantastic poem! What an honor… and how exhilarating to read about your 74th birthday! Happy Happy Birthday. Thank you so much for your time and all the good advice you shared.

your fan,

Seema

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avatar Ernie McCray May 1, 2012 at 10:53 am

Thank you for all you do to help us learn about ourselves.

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avatar Tucson Dave May 1, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Hey Ernie… ! Happy B’day….
They say “grown’ old ain’t for sissies”… I believe it !
Signed.
Stayn’ alive at seventy five… : )

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avatar Ernie McCray May 1, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Oop, oop, oop, oop, staying alive…ive…

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avatar Elaine May 2, 2012 at 9:05 am

I love how you use poetic rhymes to tell your story, but most of all I love you Ernie. Happy belated birthday to you, you cool lookin’ cat, you got it like that.
Elaine

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avatar Ernie McCray May 2, 2012 at 11:19 am

Ahhh, just what I needed instead of a bad back – a swelled head. Love ya.

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avatar Stan Levin May 15, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Happy birthday Ern …….
Just thinking about how far back we go … does fifty years sound about right ?
Wish I were just seventy-four and knew what I know now …
Your Life-pal Stan
What’s with the calculus down below … do you think I’m shviestein (twice as smart as Einstein) or sumthin’ ???

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avatar Ernie McCray May 15, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Thanks, Stan the Man. 50 years I think it is. Hey, the calculus is a trip and it’s serious as a heart attack as I answered wrong on purpose one time to see what would happen and it practically cursed me out and called me stupid. Well, anyway, I’ll always say I answered wrong on purpose (smile).

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