40

Turning 40, it feels weird. I wish I had a better word for it, but I can’t find one that’s any better. It really is just that, weird. Weird because, there’s no way I believe it. I should be mature at 40, right? I know guys my age, and older, and they play video games more than I do. But I play them the same way I did when I was 8, or 17. I typically play sports games, and I still check my stats 33 times a game, and my inner-monologue is still announcing the game, as if ESPN might hear me and come calling. And for half the game, I’ll still sit with my legs crossed. I have no idea what maturity looks like or feels like. Maybe it was the disgust felt after the election last week, but I’ve felt disgusted with politics for as long as I can remember, and I’ve despised Donald Trump just as long.

I remember my father turning 40, not vividly, but the memories are there. I was a few months shy of turning 4, and the neighbors threw a party for him. His big gift, or most memorable one anyway, was a duck. Seriously. And this was long before we moved to Kansas. We were living on Long Island, and the deli around the corner, where he and mom would meet friends every morning before work for coffee, also had farm animals. And some ducks. But that was what 40 looked like to me, my dad. Who, despite the math, is still 40 in my eyes. Even if I’ve spent the better part of the last 35 years reminding him that, he is in fact, nowhere near 40.

But 40 had a look. It went to work in a suit and it drank coffee. I wear jeans to work and drink chocolate milk. 40 looked like dad reading the morning paper while smoking his Merit, as I dramatically coughed in hopes of guilting him into quitting. I’ve never smoked anything. Yes, that’s true. Being 40 meant being able to fix anything around the house, but the only thing I’m confident (competent?) enough to do, is hook up electronics.

I know I’m no longer a kid, although my daughter insists I act like a five year old. I’m pretty sure she’s wrong, I definitely act no younger than an eight year old. And probably no older than a 17 year old, on my good (maybe bad) days. My musical tastes have evolved a bit, but if someone checked my iPhone, they’re just as likely to see I was listening to Jay Z or Eminem as I was listening to Jason Isbell or Ryan Adams. And the volume is almost as loud as it was at 17. But the car is way nicer, and hasn’t been stolen (from, not by).

So what’s really changed in my life? Nothing, but everything. The biggest difference, and there’s no downplaying this fact, is what constant emotion I feel. One that I probably should have been more familiar with at 17, but now it’s my dear friend. That being grateful. Grateful because, at 40, I have more than I ever could have imaged having at 17. I have more love, thanks to the wonderful woman, who did me the great honor of letting me be her husband. Thanks to the brilliant, sweet and hilarious 15 year old, who tries like hell to make me feel old but does more to bring out the kid in me than she can imagine. Thanks to parents, who taught me what a great marriage looks like, even though mine doesn’t sound the same. Yes, that’s a joke about their bickering. Thanks to a brother and sister, who showed me the ropes from a different point of view and gave me brilliant, funny, and loving nieces and nephews. Thanks to cousins who were like brothers. One who nearly drowned me and shared my passion for baseball and remaining loyal to the hometown team. And the one who gave me the Shogun Warrior and always built up my confidence. And, together, they taught me that you can debate anything and everything. And thanks to friends, who all came along at different points in my life, and have helped guide me to where I am now. I guess I should be pissed at them, they guided me to being a middle aged man.

If I could go back in time, and visit with myself at every milestone birthday, younger Gregg would never believe the life he’d have at 40. The 13 year old metal mouth, Met hat wearing at his own Bar Mitzvah wouldn’t believe for a second that I’d be proud to call Kansas City my home. And he sure wouldn’t believe the Mets could lose to the Royals in the World Series, and I wouldn’t lose my shit. The 16 year old, who just got his license and is driving around listening to “The Low End Theory” by A Tribe Called Quest, honestly, wouldn’t even believe I lived past 30. He was sure I wouldn’t. And today, I’ll be driving around listening to the latest Tribe in his honor. I’ve held off listening to it until tomorrow, as I wanted the joy of opening that gift on my birthday.

The 21 year old, who really lived it up 19 years ago with a Summer Squeeze at the Applebee’s in Lawrence with V, Bum, Geri and Dan (I was the first to turn 21, and I hated the smell of beer) wouldn’t believe that I never went back and finished school. But mostly, he wouldn’t believe that I married a dime, let alone went on a single date with her. 30 year old Gregg wouldn’t believe that I have the job, or credit score, that I have now. He also wouldn’t believe the President I’m about to have, but he couldn’t blame me for that. The future scared the hell out of each younger version of myself. And it scares me still, but for completely different and totally wonderful reasons. Minus those fears that come from said President. Now I appreciate that the future holds so much that I’ve never anticipated. But I also see my daughter graduating high school and going to college, and even if that college is Mizzou, I’ll be smiling from ear to ear (and wearing a Jayhawk tee). That future also includes her mending a broken heart, she’ll fall and get back up and her mother and I will cheer like hell from her corner. There’s trips that we’ll take and challenges we’ll face. Family members will be lost, and new additions to come. Tears shed from laughter and pain. I’m not completely at peace with not knowing, but I’m getting there. But I’m grateful for the life I have and excited about what’s to come.

With the Mrs. and the Kyd by my side, bring it, beyotch.