This weekend I turn 62 and I love being this age.
Have traveled from the safe confines of Turkey Hollow and journeyed to the cosmopolitan coastline at Sagamore Beach in Massachusetts. There, on a cliff overlooking Cape Cod Bay, is the majestic home of Bob Shrum and Marylouise Oates where I plan to turn over yet one more year. Couldn't mark this milestone in a more perfect place since the two of them are such longtime and beloved friends. Marylouise and I have talked on the phone everyday for forty years and I have known Bob for decades and is a dear brother to me.
Growing up in Elmer, New Jersey, birthdays were never a big deal. Can't remember ever having a birthday party as a child. Mom would cook my favorite meal of chicken pot pie and then reward another year with a coconut cake. I love coconut and would have begged her to put it in the pot pie if I thought I could be successful. The smell of the tropical fruit to this day takes me back to childhood so I have all sorts of lotions and shampoos whose smells enable to me to drift back to those early birthdays.
Birthdays never really became important to me until the struggle with HIV/AIDS in the early 1980's. Week after week, I had friends in their young 20's to 30's dying every week. Never again would we be able to celebrate their births. So, in the next decades, achieving one more year was a huge victory and a cause for great joy. Every year was a gift to us. We started having great parties to acknowledge those achievements and used those events as a way to tell the birthday boy how much we loved him -- and each other -- and how glad we were that he was born.
The epidemic forced us to be creative. On my 40th birthday, my friend Peter Scott was in the Sherman Oaks Hospital AIDS ward in California. We moved my 40th birthday party into his hospital room and six of us had balloons, laughter and of course, coconut cake amidst the tubes and life-giving medical machines. We never would consider allowing this disease to defeat us and from celebrating life. That crowded room is still one of my favorite birthdays since it was filled with such love and passion.
Since then, I had an incredible 50th birthday party on Fire Island thrown by my friends Terry Bean, Fred Hochberg and Chuck Holmes (no longer with us). On my 60th, it was off to Africa with ten of my dear friends and actress Judith Light in the kitchen, covered with flour, attempting to teach the local chefs how to cook a coconut cake. One was finally delivered to the outside birthday fest on a woman's head as she danced around the fire! So since those dark days, I have had some extraordinary birthday events filled with love and hope.
So, here I am overlooking the bay and already being spoiled rotten by Bob and Marylouise. My very special friend, Steven Guy, is with me and is treating me a like a king. It can't get any better than this moment. I am thrilled having made it this far on life's journey and getting older is an honor and a real achievement.
Now for that coconut cake.......