Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Birthday for the Aged

Everything in life gets harder as you get older.

In grade school, we could play street hockey for 3 hours a night, 7 days straight and I would feel fantastic on Day 8. Now, I roll out of bed, crack every joint in my body and my knee is killing me from playing kickball once a week.

As a kid, I would sneak Hostess Sno-Balls into my room, stuff my face and hide the wrappers under the mattress. Wouldn’t gain an ounce. Now I can’t look at Suzy Q without gaining three pounds.

Vacations were a breeze. Parents said we were going to Myrtle Beach, we’d sit around and watch them pack everything, store food in the cooler and we never once considered picking up the tab for anything. Now I have to constantly watch my bank account and request off work weeks in advance if I just want to go to Meramec Caverns (which I don’t).

But one of the most difficult tasks that comes with old age is buying presents for your parents.

My mom celebrated her (edited for content) birthday this week. I’ve known her longer than anyone else in my life, yet I had zero idea what to get her. Right out of the gate, I ran through the stand-bys: flowers, dinner and jewelry. Cliché, she still hasn’t used the gift certificate I got her for Christmas and I have no taste. Back to Square One.

Last year I got her Lion King tickets. She really liked those, but she took my dad. Unless it’s a Conway Twitty revival or features Bruce Willis, chances are he won’t like it. So I figured I had to go a different route.

Thought about sentimental. My brothers and I had our photos taken a few years back for Christmas. There was less water in the Flood of ’93 than there was coming from her eyes that day. But I already went to that well for Christmas when I gave her a black-and-white photo compilation of the three of us. Plus I'm drawing a blank for Christmas this year and Glamour Shots has a special.

So that led me to Mom Heaven – Target. But here’s the problem: if my parents want something, they can afford it. They have much more money than I do. They see something they like, they just go out and buy it. They have a waffle maker. That means there isn’t much more that could possibly make their lives easier. And our tastes are quite different. When she opens presents from my aunt in Kansas City, she sees an amazing sculpture or painting. I see Dorian Gray when things went south.

I wandered the aisles and settled on a reasonably priced vegetable slicer. It looked like the credit card machine in taxis. It’s too big for easy cleanup and for simple slicing. It cuts potatoes for French fries, I think, but so does Ore Ida. There are something like 5 different slicing components in case she wants to get crazy with her red peppers. And I’m pretty sure I heard the cashier say, “your mom is going to hate this.”

The ensemble was completed when I dropped $2.99 on a neon pink bag and another $3.50 on an inappropriate, humorous card. Card brought a smile. Bag will be recycled. And the enthusiasm from the gift would have made Ben Stein seem excitable. Needless to say, I left the receipt on the counter. When all is said and done, I think all I got her for her birthday was a trip to Target to stand in the return line.

So it was a typical adult birthday in my family. I celebrated by eating a Suzy Q. It made my knee hurt.