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The old men in the old country
die with unannounced poison in their bones
cheeks turning red to black,
far past rosy vodka friendliness
whispered slurs of slipping away
wrapped in the same white sheets they were born on
surrounded by ancient grandmother pillars of pillows
soon to be buried next to all previous generations
under neon-colored plastic flowers
and broken china cups of rain water to eternally sip
worn out weary legs bent under hay-making shoulders
rheumy watery eyes and lotion-less skin
big belly gut heaving from the lung stress
sitting splayed on the one one person-sized mattress
thinking of his father
thinking of me
thinking of nothing
semi-encircled by the entire village family
throwing arms in the air clutching vodka swallows;
nothing much is different on this his last day.

I’m turning 21 in less than a week.

And, I bet I can guess what image just popped into your head: Young people going out, celebrating, getting drunk, smashed, hammered, etc.

Right? Welcome to the socially acceptable 21st birthday jamboree in the USA!

Happy 21st! Hope you enjoy this birthday — it’s all downhill from here!

What do I say to that?

Boring.

I’m not a drinker. The thought that I’ll be “legal”, able to buy myself a drink at midnight, doesn’t excite me.

I hope to spend my 21st anniversary of life in a different way.

That said, I’m not sure what I should do – 21 is the drinking birthday. That’s all the internet guides talk about – bar hopping, getting people to buy you drinks, gift ideas which involve fancy cocktail glasses…

Last year I had a really great birthday: I went to the Detroit Zoo. Even though I didn’t get to see the Giraffes (that costs extra!), I still liked wandering around. Then, I went to the movies. Then, I had ice cream with one of my long-time friends. It was an all-day celebration with people I loved. And that’s what I think birthdays are good for. Not pondering your ever-increasing old age (I mean, my god, I’m going to be 21! I’m freaking ancient!) Being happy, surrounded by your friends and/or family, and celebrating your life!

I guess all this “OMG You’re TWENTY-ONE? You know what that means!” business is ruffling my happy-birthday-feathers. So what if I can drink now? I mean, sure, that’s great, in four more days America will trust me with alcohol. Thanks, America!

Yippee, goody-goody. I’d rather spend my B-day exploring some new city, ¬†or playing Catch Phrase with every awesome person I’ve ever met (I LOVE Catch Phrase!), or lying on a grassy knoll at night staring up at the stars and discussing the meaning of life, the universe, and everything! (Seriously, you wanna?)

Anyway, my point is, if you want to go have a drink or twelve on your 21st, go for it. If not, spend the day however you truly want to: celebrate yourself, celebrate your life! Happy Birth Day!

And, lastly, don’t listen to those people when they say that your 21st is the last “important” birthday – that is so not true! Every birthday is important – don’t let that importance slip away!