Photo of birthday cake decoration

Yesterday was birthday number 69. Sixty-nine! Having just survived two life-threatening events, I am keeping my bald head above water in an ocean of feelings, defeating whirlpools of self-pity amidst the contemplation of mortality.

Treading water is not as difficult as it seems; for yesterday, with no home, nine time zones away from all that’s familiar and from those whom I love, there was a party. A party for me! Imagine coming to a far-away land and sharing the company of people who honor and respect you – enough to throw a party for you. Is that cause for gratitude or what?

Guests at the dinner table

Jeanette (at left), Gabriel, Simone, Louise, and me at the birthday dinner table. (Photo by Vicens Ripoll.)

And gratitude is what I feel. I’m grateful for being alive; grateful for chocolate cake and cava; grateful for multi-lingual laughter; grateful for my emergent fuzz of hair; and most of all, grateful for the loving Catalan people pictured above and their bounty of affection. Thank you, Vicens and Jeanette. Thank you, Simone and Gabriel. And most of all, thank you Louise. This man, so far from home in so many ways, is humbled by your generosity.

Tom & cake

Mercifully, no one insisted on putting 69 candles on the cake. Reminder to self: Wear hat for photos!