Seventy-five

[Thursday, September 7) Celebrating your birthday may not make all that much sense. For how does that particular day differ from the day before or the day after that date? But, nonetheless, most of us would find it rather unpleasant if our birthday would pass without anyone, not even those closest to you, noticing. The time that we received fancy birthday cards is mostly in the past. These have to a large extent been replaced by e-cards, and, of course, by posts on Facebook. It is no longer necessary to check our birthday calendar, since the Facebook computer will warn us in good time when our ‘friends’ have their birthday. Last year some 150 ‘friends’ took the trouble to send me their digital good wishes. I wonder how many will do so this year. Admittedly, I do enjoy getting a bit of attention on my birthday.

Some birthdays are experienced as a kind of milestone. The eighteenth and twenty-first are considered important points on the road towards adulthood. Many people see becoming thirty or forty as quite special, and even more so turning fifty. Then, somehow, one is no longer young. In the Netherlands the magic moment of turning sixty-five has lost most of its special meaning, as the age for getting our first state pension payment is gradually being moved to sixty-seven. Tomorrow I hope to celebrate my seventy-fifth birthday. It stirs some special sentiments. In fact, it is a kind of milestone for me.

I realize that with my seventy-five years I have outlived my paternal grandfather after whom I was named. And I am now already about a quarter of a century older than my father was when he died. I remember well that I saw my grandfather, when he was in his early seventies, as quite old.  I have no idea how I am looked upon by children. Perhaps they see me as terribly ancient, even though I certainly do not have that feeling myself. However, I must admit that lately it happens, when I am in a crowded tram or train, that someone offers his/her seat to me . . . What does that tell me?

At reaching the 75-milestone a sense of real gratitude dominates all other feelings.  I have reason to be grateful: being in reasonable health; being still together with my wife after 52 years of happy marriage; having two great children; having the energy and opportunity to continue with activities that I enjoy and that give a lot of satisfaction. In retrospect there are, of course, things in the past that I could have done differently and, undoubtedly, better. But the balance is quite positive.

Besides gratitude there is also a sense of wonder. Who could have predicted what would happen to this boy that was born in a working-class neighborhood in Amsterdam and moved at age 5 to a small village some 20 miles north of this city? I grew up in a very small world, but my world became bigger and bigger during the past seventy-five years, as my work brought me to almost one hundred countries and gave me the chance to live and work on three different continents.

I want to thank all people, far and near, who have supported me in various ways and have enabled me to do many different things. I thank all those who have been role models for me and have inspired me--and also have allowed me in some ways to touch their lives!

I want, above all, to thank my heavenly Father, who has always been there for me.

 

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