Tony Deyal | Nine million happy birthdays
Today is my wife Indranie's birthday, and I wanted her to know how I felt on the last birthday that I wrote about, my 56th on August 10, 2001 - a spacious oddity desperately trying to lose weight. I am back there again, as I am heading for my 72nd this year. I also wanted my readers to see that the more things change, the more they remain the same.
On Thursday night, just a few minutes before my birthday officially started, I looked at my birthday suit and realised that it needed pressing. I looked like The Abdomenable Slowman. I had not planned any birthday celebration, since that usually involved a cake, and I did not have fire insurance or air conditioning to deal with the heat that such a large number of candles would generate.
The fans I have are scattered around the region and diaspora. Additionally, I wanted a party, not a torchlight procession. Climatologists might defy the Donald and suddenly arrive in Trinidad looking for this latest cause of global warming. I wish that I were like William Lamb, later Lord Melbourne, British prime minister. His wife, the notorious Lady Caroline Lamb, known for a passionate love affair with the poet, Lord Byron, celebrated Melbourne's birthday by having herself served to him as a birthday banquet dish.
On that occasion (according to the Boston Globe), she emerged naked from a large tureen. Talk about appetiser! Much better than shrimp cocktail in a Chinese restaurant. More like wanton soup. When I told one of my friends, who knew me in the old days when I indulged in the pleasures of drink, tobacco and the flesh (beef, pork, etc.), that I was celebrating my birthday, he asked, "How?"
A look at some weird facts did not help. I share my birthday with at least nine million other people. China has more English speakers than the United States, about eight million of whom would probably be saying, "I am
celebrating my birthday today." If the population of China walked past me in single file, the line would never end because of the rate of reproduction. Women blink twice as much as men, which explains my wife's reaction to my birthday suit.
A crocodile cannot stick its tongue out, which means that it is deprived of certain aspects of pleasure. Perhaps the realisation of what it's missing is the origin of crocodile tears. However, the strongest muscle in the body is the tongue, which might mean something, but again might not. The good news is that only one person in two billion will live to be 116 years old or older. This is the person who did not eat the shrimp cocktail or the wantons.
Author Robert Louis Stevenson (Kidnapped, Treasure Island) had a young friend who, in addition to having nine million people share her birthday, was born on Christmas Day. This clearly added to the number of people with whom she competed for attention and to her concern that she received presents only once a year and felt cheated. When, as death approached, Stevenson, in drawing up his will, remembered the girl and bequeathed his own birthday to her. He subsequently added the following clause, "If, however, she fails to use this bequest properly, all rights shall pass to the president of the United States." Fortunately, the Donald was not around then, or Clinton.
I recently moved to a seaside home near the south-western coastal village of Oropouche. I generally boast about how healthy a place it is. I tell people that when I came to Oropouche, I could not walk, talk or eat solid food. While they marvel at my recovery, I never mention that I was born here. However, when someone who knows that it is my birthplace foolishly asks, "How come you were born in such a remote place?", I invariably answer that at that time, I thought it was important to be near my mother.
Counting my blessings
I thought it was important as well to count my blessings. I have been through some traumatic times and tribulations in the last few years - leaving the Pan American Health Organization, moving from Barbados, taking up a new job, remarriage, change in employment again, court, lawyers, moving again, and having to position myself as an international consultant once more.
I came up with several blessings, including my family. In the meantime, Trinidad seems to be in the process of being torn apart by racial divisions instead of becoming more united by its rich diversity. I realise, however, that life is a blessing and its greatest value comes from its use. I also realise that some blessings can never change and the important things in life can never die.
Whatever happens? People will worship God, honour education, and pursue truth and knowledge. The greatest things will endure - love, faith, hope and the essence of humanity. I know, too, that tough times never last. Tough people do.
The most important thing, though, is to keep your sense of humour and to be able to laugh at yourself. For his wife's birthday party, a man ordered a cake with this inscription, "You are not getting older, you are just getting better."
Asked how he wanted the message arranged, he said, "Just put 'You are not getting older' at the top and 'You are just getting better' at the bottom." When the party started and the man unveiled the cake to the assembled guests, he saw the inscription for the first time: "YOU ARE NOT GETTING OLDER AT THE TOP, YOU ARE JUST GETTING BETTER AT THE BOTTOM."
- Tony Deyal was last seen saying that he got a great birthday gift, another 16 years. However, the best might be a steel drum - it takes a lot of beating.