90th Birthday Cards

Ninety is a magical number, for what other double digit
birthday would produce over sixty colorful birthday cards
loaded with sentiment enough to make him laugh and cry
by turn, so sweet and so funny,
knowledge of the signers giving them
added depth and meaning, love and honoring there
even in the wildest and of words and pictures.

Take the drawing of a happy pig sitting on a log
in a field of mushrooms with the notation Happier than
a pig in shitakes.
Or the home-made card with a photo of the honoree
on the front next to a frame of two young women
seemingly reacting in mock horror,
eyes and mouths open wide at the announcement
of his advanced age. Inside the card, an even better
surprise, a happy birthday wish From All of Us with a
group photo of all the scantily-clad Dallas Cowboy
cheerleaders (as if he and the young women were friends).

Then there’s the card that appeals to his writing life.
The sentence on the front of the card, encased in a large
comma sign, reads I like blowing up balloons and gifts and
parties. Without a comma it has the makings of a crime
scene. With it, after balloons, you’ve got a happy birthday,
which, of course, is what the senders want for him.
He, meanwhile, is more conscious now
of where he puts his commas and will want to make sure
he doesn’t lose an m in the process, resulting in a coma.

What birthday would be complete without a card with a
Guru on front, appropriately dressed in sandals and robe,
with a long, white beard loaded with wisdom.
In this card the Guru is saying The secret to an enjoyable birthday
can be found in achieving balance. The birthday balance, of course,
turns out to be a forkful of cake, a spoonful of ice cream, a forkful
of cake, a spoonful of ice cream…

And then there’s always one card that appeals to his strong
male ego, especially when the sender is an attractive, single
woman, many years younger.
The front of the card features a photo of five men in a sauna.
Two have dark hair, the other three gray-haired.
All are naked.
Two have towels around their middle.
The other three are discreetly posed.
They all are reacting to a spray of cold water that has been
cast their way. The caption at the bottom of the photo
reads Another Birthday?
Inside the card, three words You’re Still Hot!

And how about the card with the double meaning? On the front
a black and white photo of a bucking bronco, the rider bouncing
high off the saddle and in danger of a serious spill. Above the
photo the words You’re at that awkward age. Below the photo
the caption Young enough to want to do it but old enough
to know better. Inside the card, the words: You’re as young
today as you’ll ever be, so GO FOR IT!.
The sender, in this case, is an older man who knows what he’s
talking about, whatever he’s talking about.

He kept returning to one card which had a sort of elegant
simplicity, a black and white photo of a young man, a slight
smile on his face as he begins to emerge from a manhole,
on a wet city street in Paris, maybe, with the caption The sign
of wisdom is a continual cheerfulness. An agreeable sentiment,
he’s quick to add.

Many cards featured beautiful flowers in an array of colors
to match his spirit, while a host I’m of other cards focused on animals,
wild and domestic, a languishing lioness, a mischevious squirrel.
He was smitten by the picture of small gray kitten, sitting
demurely on its haunches, looking straight out of the photo.
Inside the card, the words See… the more gray hair you have,
the cuter you look! This from a cute younger woman.

He’s had photographs converted into birthday cards before
but never one of him dancing with a younger woman
doing the East Coast Swing, a circle of friends
clapping and looking on, the caption above reading
Bob: the new Ninety. Keep Dancing Dear Friend.
Inside, an invitation to view a special DVD which
was included that, if followed,
would have him dancing and dreaming
among the stars.

Underneath, in the sea below the cards, another card,
in the shape of a yellow submarine with a red propeller,
glides silently along,
riding a current of gratitude for his poetry and especially
his poem “The Little Mouse on the Ferry”,
before it turns around and heads back to its home port
at the Senior Center.

And a last card among the birthday cards which wasn’t
a birthday card at all. It was something more.
The front of the card spelled out KISSES
and below a pair of silver doves with the caption
the pure and simple truth is…
Inside, on the next page, in small print against a plain,
white background, standing alone,
the words I love you.
This card could only have been from his muse and was,
with a happy birthday greeting added in long-hand
along with other endearing words.
He included the card here because he,
romantic that he is, prefers
all his poems to end with kisses.

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