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Opinion | I am 65, and I’m alive

I’m turning 65 tomorrow because I haven’t died.

Gold number 65 celebration candle against blurred light background

Birthdays come every year. If you don’t have a birthday, then, well, something went wrong. Terribly wrong.

My 65th birthday is Sunday. I’m having a 65th birthday because something went right.

Our house fire 10 days ago didn’t kill me or my wife. We managed to get five of our six animals out alive. We lost Smudge, our cat.

That’s all sad. We’re still processing this awful event. We cry a lot. We don’t know how long it will be, if ever, that we get to return home. We lost most of our possessions. And that doesn’t matter. Really. It doesn’t.

We didn’t lose our lives, nor did we lose our enthusiasm for life. We learned how much those around us really care for us, and that is humbling.

I’m 65 on Sunday. And I turn 65 basically homeless.

Except that’s not so. I’ve had three different families offer to take us in, without conditions, to live in their homes. Veronica and I are considering those options. We’re also looking for an apartment in the interim. A small apartment. It’s time for us to downsize, to get a new start, to live life with perspective.

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We lost our home to fire 10 days ago. On Thursday in just a few hours, all across Alabama, hundreds of families lost their homes to tornadoes and storms. Some families lost loved ones. One family lost three members.

I’m turning 65 tomorrow because I haven’t died.

There are 10 people in Boulder, Colorado, who lost their lives to a mad gunman. Nine of them will never be 65. One of them will never turn 66.

And still, members of Congress – mostly Republicans – see no reason to outlaw military-style weapons or large-capacity ammunition magazines. It’s the same argument we have after every mass shooting: After Columbine, after Sandy Hook, after Orlando, after Parkland, after Atlanta, after so many. So many.

Too many of us are OK with normalizing mass shootings – a uniquely American problem – as long as we don’t regulate our God-given right to carry weapons designed only to kill other people. Or ourselves.

I have the privilege of turning 65 Sunday. So many don’t, though, because of guns. Because of wild weather caused by, in part, climate change. Because of reckless behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

I’m generally not a big birthday person. My wife may disagree – and I may have to defer to her.

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But I remember when I received my 25-year service award from The Birmingham News. People throughout the building would congratulate me. They would clap me on the back. “Well done,” they would say.

And in my mind, I was thinking I received a 25-year-service award because, No.1, I didn’t get fired; and, No. 2, I didn’t die. 

An award for living. 

I will greatly enjoy this birthday. Veronica is with me. Our dogs are recovering. Our “daughters” truly love us. Our friends are real, and they care, and they are there.

I am 65, and I’m alive.

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]. 

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column each week for the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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