Sharon Randall - A birthday journey; seeing another year is a really good thing

By SHARON RANDALLMcCLatchy-Tribune News Service Published:

Friday was my husband's birthday. We spent it in the car. Not all of it, just four hours.

He was driving. I was writing. It worked pretty well. We had an unspoken agreement. He didn't tell me how to write. And I tried not to tell him how to drive.

We left our home in Las Vegas around mid-afternoon, to drive to Phoenix for the weekend, to celebrate his birthday and see the Warriors play the Suns.

My husband is a lucky man. He knows it, but I like to remind him. Not only has he lived to see another birthday _ not everyone gets to do that, you know _ but he married a woman who likes basketball and doesn't balk at driving 300 miles to see a game.

The day got off to a great start with birthday cards and phone calls and a video from our 3-year-old grandson singing "Happy bir'day, Papa Mark!" backed up by his baby brother, chiming in on "to you!"

In the car, his cell phone kept ringing with birthday greetings from family and friends. He put them all on speaker phone so he could drive hands free and I could listen in, even though it wasn't my birthday.

We by-passed Hoover Dam, drove on through Kingman, and headed out across the open desert just in time for sunset.

The western sky colored up slowly, painting feather-like clouds in the singular shades of neon pinks and purples and lavenders and grays that I've come to love in desert sunsets.

I wish you could've seen it.

Just past Wikieup _ a town that's even smaller than the one I grew up in _ my husband pulled over to take a picture. He's like that. A sucker for sunsets. I like that about him.

I wanted to take a picture of him taking the picture, but I couldn't get my phone/camera out of my purse before he got back in the car. I'm like that. Slow. He likes that about me.

Back on the road, the sunset gradually faded to black, the shadows grew long and the desert disappeared, bedding down under a blanket of night.

Oncoming headlights sliced the dark like lasers and stabbed at our eyes. The rough road got rougher, rattling our teeth. My bad knee kept begging for a break, and dinner was still miles away. I dug into the snack bag one last time and fished out a limp stick of celery. It had seemed like such a good idea when I packed it.

Meanwhile, on the CD player, the Reverend Al Green began to sing, "Love and Happiness," and we had to laugh. A little good music makes a bad road better.

An hour later, we checked into the hotel (they left a light on for us), got dinner and sat out on a roof top feeling glad to be alive.

We had a great weekend. Ate too much, slept too little and the Warriors, well, they lost. But still, it was all worth the drive.

Isn't it always?

On the way home, I started thinking about birthdays. In our family, we celebrate four in January, four in February, and all the others throughout the year. Mine is this week. I'm not sure how we'll celebrate it. Possibly not with a four-hour drive to a basketball game.

If I'm lucky, like my husband, I'll get cards and calls and maybe a few videos. I don't need presents any more. When you've seen as many birthdays as I've seen, the only gift you truly want is getting to see one more.

Birthdays are the mile markers on the road of life. They tell us how far we've come, but not how far we've yet to go.

Life is a journey more than a destination. The road is harder for some than it is for others, but we all reach the end of it sooner or later. What matters is who we choose as traveling companions, and how often we just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Here's wishing you a happy birthday, whenever it may be. No need to send me a birthday card. Unless you really want to.

(Sharon Randall can be contacted at P.O. Box 777394, Henderson, Nev. 89077, or at www.sharonrandall.com.)

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