“It’s your birthday, huh, Dad?”
“Sure is, sugar pie.”
“You going through with it?”
“Yeah, I think so. I don’t know why not.”
Nathanael’s adult birthday and Sugar’s elder birthday both fell on Saturday.
Sugar spent the morning hugging all the family members. I wasn’t sure what that meant. Had she decided to go through with it, then? It’s her choice, I kept reminding myself. I will not interfere.
onezero painted a special freezer bunny painting to commemorate the double birthday.
“The blue lines are time,” she explained. “And the yellow–that’s the window in time. These are your routes,” she continued, pointing to the three curved parallel lines. “It’s all about choice.”
It’s a beautiful and funny painting, even if I don’t completely understand it.
Up on the rooftop patio, Sugar planned the party. And when she finished the call, she thought long and hard.
I felt nervous, watching her. She looked so serious. What are you deciding, Sugar? I reminded myself that whatever she chooses, it’s good. Because it’s her choice, and she’s the one who knows if she wants to extend her life, or let it follow the natural course.
Just the other day, someone asked me, who, in their right mind, wouldn’t choose youth potion, instead of aging up, if such a thing were available? I didn’t even need to think: I would not choose it. Not now, not at this point in my life. My lifetime partner has already had his elder spin. My own is about ten years down the road. I enjoy being this much younger than him–it’s useful. When he’s well into elderhood, decades from now, I’ll still be young enough to care for our home, our garden, and him, if fate is willing. But I don’t want to spin back to the beginning of adulthood–that would leave too many years without him at the end.
Even if I were single, I don’t think I’d want an unnaturally long life. My lifespan is what it is–designed to fit within the scope of this sphere where my influence falls. Stretch it out too thin, and my influence distorts. And how can I bear to see my sister, my nieces, my brother, my nephew, my grandnephews and grandnieces all pass, while I stay? How can I bear to continue to take up space here on this precious earth when the time allotted to this form is past? Death is nothing to fear, and I open myself to the span given to me–that’s where the universe’s wisdom lies. I’ll leave the white cup in the inventory, gratefully and with reverence.
And I hope that Sugar feels differently. I hope she’ll stay with us here for a long, long time.
While I had these thoughts, Sugar completed her reverie and turned to give me one of her enigmatic looks. I could tell she had made her decision, though I couldn’t tell what it was.
She came downstairs with the ringing of chimes, pulling out the white cup and setting it there on the table, beside onezero.
She looked at onez, a penetrating gaze. And onez looked at the cup. These two share an unspoken communication; it’s the bond of the white cup, and more.
So much passed through that look. I wonder if they thought of Salix, whose lifebar has been sparkling for weeks now and whose white cup stays in her inventory. Or did they think of Doug, who chose adulthood and who, with each day, steps closer to elderspin? Staying brings responsibility and a sadness of its own.
She picked up the cup with a smile, turning towards their friend and neighbor Preston, just arrived with birthday greetings.
“Happy unbirthday, Shug,” he said, folding her in a bear hug.
With Preston looking on, she drank the cup.
Sugar, you’ll be around!
Nathanael, with a cup of his own in his inventory, took his meal out to the bar. It was quieter out there–a good place to think. Tam was well into adulthood, he thought. And it’s not like it’s elderspin.
At sunset, the adults gathered inside for jokes and stories. Alder brought his supper out. One stranger, the bartender, was a lot less nerve-wracking than a whole kitchen full of them. Outside, he could hear his own thoughts. He had a long time before he needed to think about birthdays, but there were still so many things that he wanted to ponder. Like chickens. And whether his chicken hat knew what it was he was feasting on at that moment.
The party was over. Tam was clearing up the dishes, while Salix whipped up a healthy cake, just in case.
Might as well, Nathanael thought. Otherwise, I’ll just spin and feel badly that my birthday was forgot.
“Thank heaven,” Salix said. “When you’re part of a married couple, it’s the right decision!”
And Nathanael agreed. Being an adult with his beautiful, fiery wife, then growing old with her–now that was an experience worth having, too. It’s not just youth and longevity that brings happiness, after all. Studies show elders and kids are happiest. Maybe our mortality isn’t the curse we sometimes think it is, in our short-sighted moments of forgetfulness.
Sunday morning, Salix danced on the patio. Oh, Sal! Are you remembering when you danced there as a little girl? I remember, and I remember your eyes closed then, too, as you felt the music join you with the big desert sun. What secrets did you know as a wise little girl that circle through the sparkles filling your lifebar now?