Recently I have had problems with birthdays and especially my own.  I spent this one in the skies ostensibly, flying to various cities to visit clients, and, I must admit, my family was not pleased at all as I didn’t answer phone calls, return text messages, or communicate by email.  It sounds horrible in writing this down, though that wasn’t my intent; I just didn’t have anything to say and certainly nothing to celebrate.

I remember one birthday spent in Costa Rica, and, again, I chose not to call home or acknowledge the day as anything special other than a day I spent alive in a tropical rainforest.

I like the idea of getting into a car on your birthday and driving with your camera and shooting whatever moves you.  I like the idea of freedom to mourn the passing of time…  to take snap shots of items surrounding the day, pictures for the crypt.

I decided that it was nice to be flying on a series of planes hither and yon right through my birthday.  At one point I got off a Southwest plane late one afternoon in San Francisco and got back on a Southwest plane the very next morning to Denver, meeting up with the exact same airline crew — they must have thought I was a security official or someone from the airline, who knows.  In the middle of the flight the stewardess came up to me and said, “How are things with you, Mr. Giles!”  I can only guess at the machinations she went through to learn my name — certainly she didn’t ask me and no one had assigned seats…

I didn’t tell her my traveling on Southwest had nothing to do with her, that she and the crew were only a funny coincidence in my marathon run through time…

On the plane I was thinking of regrets I have, and the one that kept coming to mind is not hiking the Inca Trail when I was in Cusco, Peru.  I had signed up for it months in advanced and even received official clearance from the Government of Peru, but family pressure resulted in my deciding at the last minute not to add a week to my journey and fly home.

Now, in looking back at the opportunity I missed and looking ahead at my life, I don’t think I will ever get that chance again.  I would have liked to have taken my camera and, walking behind the porters carrying my camping equipment, food stuff, and backpack, shot whatever came to mind, items surrounding the day, pictures for the crypt, all the while climbing to God sitting at the top of the world…

Did you ever have a premonition on what day you would die, like June 5, or October 23, or February 12?  I always thought I would die on my birthday.  It seemed like a good way to bring a life to a fitting conclusion, like being born at 7:23 AM and dying at 7:22 AM many years later.  At 7:22 AM, I was on a plane flying to Las Vegas and thinking what my last breath would feel like.  My chest expands, air exhaled, and then a nod of the head, a slump of the shoulders, a relaxing of the muscles…  The stewardess coming over… “Mr. Giles, let me turn off your reading light and slow the cold air on your neck.  Unfasten your seat belt, relax your feet, your flight has landed…”


Categories: Essays

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