SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

February 20, 2014

Anderson: Birthday thoughts, from Bode to Barack

Barbara Anderson
The Salem News

---- — Here’s a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t.

— Richard Bach, “Illusions”

My birthday this year fell on the official celebration of Presidents Day. First thing I did on my birthday morning was put out my American flag. Later, someone on Facebook told me that “On this day in 1801, Thomas Jefferson is elected the third president of the United States. The election constitutes the first peaceful transfer of power from one political party to another in the United States.”

Add to this the fact that Ronald Reagan, born on Feb. 6, is also an Aquarian like me, and Presidents Day is covered.

Avi Nelson, filling in from 7 to 10 a.m. on WRKO, led a discussion about who exactly is honored on Presidents Day: Opinions range from the traditional “only Washington” to combining Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays to including all the presidents of the United States. I grew up with “only Washington,” am happy to include Lincoln, Jefferson and Reagan, but that flag on my porch wasn’t honoring Obama.

If it’s true that my mission on earth isn’t finished, then I hope to last long enough to help banish the Obama influence on my country. The typical Aquarian traits of friendliness and tolerance shouldn’t trump the Aquarian love of freedom.

In the afternoon, Chip took me to Peabody Essex Museum to see the final day of the “Impressionists on the Water” exhibit, followed by Mexican food in the mall. Later, we watched the beginning of the second season of “House of Cards” — we got the Netflix free trial to watch the “Mitt” documentary, then quickly became hooked on the Kevin Spacey political series, catching up with the first season in a few evenings.

I was watching the Olympic ice dancing when I officially turned 71, while eating my traditional chocolate cookie/Cool Whip refrigerator cake.

You may recall that I couldn’t make this treat for my son’s birthday when he was visiting because the Nabisco cookies were no longer anywhere to be found; I felt this could be a sign that my mission on earth was finished. But the cookies have returned to the shelves, so onward to the next election!

Birthdays, and life in general, can be so wonderful. There are holidays, museums, great food — including dessert. Olympic champions take your breath away, and during a birthday week, it’s nice to see an old-timer like Bode Miller win his sixth career medal. Skaters spin and leap to some of your favorite music.

My birthday tradition is to do exactly what I want on my birthday (same as on the other days, except I don’t let myself feel guilty about the other things that aren’t getting done). This year, I had fun with Facebook, new in my life since the last birthday, getting many delightful birthday greetings. There were also the traditional phone calls and cards from family and old friends.

Many days of our life, we can watch excellent television, read good books, maybe travel, or just sit and watch the seasons pass. Here’s the point I want to make. None of it matters if freedom fails. I think I accurately recall a scene in the movie “Dr. Zhivago,” in which the protagonist, played by Omar Sharif, on his way to prison in Siberia, gets a chance to briefly leave the train and finds himself in a birch forest; he’s filled with joy by its beauty. I know there are people who live in appalling political circumstances and still find pleasure in the small life left to them. I don’t think I’d be like that: I want life MY way, surrounded by the Bill of Rights (as I learned it, not as some of them are presently defined).

Growing old is also limiting, of course. I once asked an older friend, “How are you?” and he said, “Fine, as long as I can get my prescriptions.” That was a new thought for me as I realized: I, along with many of my friends, already depend on a variety of little pills for chronic medical concerns! Come the revolution, it’s no longer a matter of getting, armed, to the hills ahead of the federalistas, but of finding a pharmacy there.

So, my birthday is over; the first day of the rest of my life began with a visit from Salem’s A&A Services, Sean Luddy on a ladder tied to the back porch, attacking the dams around my rooflines with his ice pick and probably preventing a water disaster I’d rather not have to face.

This is the lesson. When you have a potential problem with your home, call a reliable contractor. When you have a potential disaster in your country, elect a better congressman, senator, president. We all have our small roles to play in this coming election cycle: a column, a letter to the editor, talk radio calls and Facebook postings, discussions with family and friends, active support for a candidate.

If you’re still alive and reading this, your mission on earth may also be to help save America, Election Day, November 2014, 2016.