J Is 82. [UPDATED]

February 22, 2010 at 3:38 am (By Amba)

From his birthday yesterday:

Axel, the "Perfect Match" (Duke Hospice volunteer)

“Wanna make something of it?”

UPDATE: In the 38 years I’ve known him, even when J was depressed or frustrated overall, I have never, ever known him to be down on his birthday.  In some periods I used to dread that another birthday would only remind him of the dreams that hadn’t come true, the fruitless time fleeting.  It never happened.  I learned to trust that I could look forward to his birthday as a sabbath from all that.  No matter what, it’s always a serene, happy, positive day for him.  Not excited or egotistical or demanding; just sunny and calm.  (I don’t want to wonder about his two birthdays in Russia, especially the first one, less than a month after he arrived.  He climbed out of a train engine coal bin on the free side of the Iron Curtain two days before the third one, February 19, 1947.)  Yesterday was no exception; Axel remarked on how “with it” and communicative he was.

That led me to wonder whether the way you feel about, and on, your birthday doesn’t say something about you — how you fundamentally feel about yourself, and life, and time.  (Maybe this is nonsense; to some people birthdays are simply no big deal.  I suspect it all goes back to your early family and how they felt about birthdays, and you.)

How do I feel on my birthday?  I always eagerly look forward to it, but then the day itself is a letdown, an emotional blank.  I can’t grasp that special whatever-it-was I was anticipating.  I do kind of feel that way about my life.


  1. PatHMV said,

    Happy Birthday, Jacques!

  2. Donna B. said,

    ~~Happy Birthday~~

  3. Melinda said,

    Happy Birthday, J!

  4. karen said,

    J looks fabulous, amba. I don’t know how you do it– what a great pair the two of you are.
    To repeat the sentiment of my above friends: ~Happy Birthday, J~ :0)

  5. PatHMV said,

    If there’s one thing that man knows how to do, it’s survive, huh? Yay for you both!

  6. amba12 said,

    Thanks all!

    At this point J has outlived almost everybody who survived what he did, and a lot of his old friends who didn’t (especially the inveterate smokers).

    As he left, Axel hugged me with one arm and muttered almost to himself something like, “You’re a little hero.” I usually shake off such attributions — I see my own unheroic, often unkind and impatient behavior every day — but there was something about the affectionate way he said it, or the diminutive, that I liked.

  7. Maxwell said,

    Nice topper!

  8. amba12 said,

    (I’m not sure it’s what you meant but) No one wears a hat like J. He can make a 15-buck fedora from Kohl’s look like a Borsalino.

  9. PatHMV said,

    If I had survived what he has survived, I think I’d be chipper on all my future birthdays, too. Call up death and say: “cheated you for another year, you bastard!”

    Kind of calls to mind a silly old piece of joking advice I once read: “First thing in the morning, eat a live frog. That way, nothing worse will happen to you all day!”

  10. Charlie (Colorado) said,


  11. amba12 said,


  12. Randy said,

    How marvelous! Congratulations to J.

  13. karen said,

    i heard a program on NPR about Hospice that reminded me of you– one lady did. The story could have been about you– independence and a fierce dedication to a vow taken and given.

    i listen to way too much of that radio– it depresses me, i think. Always serious subjects. I listen too closely, i guess.

  14. amba12 said,

    Thanks, Randy, and Karen, and all. Much love.

  15. Randy said,

    Karen: I haven’t been paying enough attention to the comments. I just ran across one of yours wherein you mention moving back to your house. When does that happen? No problem leasing the pasture land you were before, I hope.

  16. Luka said,

    Happy Birthday Jacques!

    If there is one day to be happy, it should be one’s birthday. I believe the idea of always giving is actually so emphasized in our world that it can be easy to forget how to love and celebrate ourselves. The birthday makes a great occasion for it.

  17. Norma said,

    I was out of town on my last birthday (70) at a bird watching event, and told no one. It was great!

  18. amba12 said,

    One of my sisters (I’m only allowed to say she’s younger than me) is trying to take that approach, but some of our other siblings are making it difficult.

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