I turned 60 yesterday; something of a milestone I suppose. I had no feelings or thoughts as the birthday rapidly approached because of all the events life has recently visited upon me. The situation at home has brought the visit of Wendy's mom now approaching two full months. In fact, counting her time in the hospital, she actually hasn't left us since December 24th. Her health is improving but her strength is still questionable. For me, I don't have confidence that she can return to living alone anytime soon. In fact, I told my wife last night that maybe we should talk about making her current arrangements more permanent. At work things are actually quite chaotic and it takes all my strength and faith to keep it manageable. In less than one week my bank changes hands and the unknown and uncertain, which I acknowledge up front can be surprisingly good once the dust settles, begins.
Therefore I had no expectations when March 4th dawned, the 60th anniversary of my birth. I awoke after a busy Friday which included presiding at Benediction, offering the Stations of the Cross and spending time in fellowship at the parish KC Fish Fry. And I knew that I would be waking up early for a day of work, full of activity related to the previously mentioned work situation. As is the new normal these days, I began to see the earliest Facebook good wishes flooding my wall and suddenly, and unexpectedly, I began to take the temperature of the reality of 60. And then all of a sudden I stumbled across a song I've heard before but never paid much attention to and then realizing the song addressed "turning sixty years old" I listened with a fresh set of ears. The circumstances of the song do not necessarily mirror my life, but just hearing sixty years old seemed to have profound meaning as I listened, over and over again. That song is posted here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBFDSmEkrW4.
At that moment I did a quick, and I mean very quick reflection of making it to this milestone of 60; how a poor little boy from ramshackle old Algiers, a product of a broken home(mom and dad just could not make it together and dad was kind of an absent father; God bless them both as I pray they are resting in peace) actually has experienced God's grace every step of these sixty years. God provided many people to love me and guide me as a boy, and at the incredibly young and tender age of 15 he opened my eyes to the girl I met in 5th grade and revealed to me a life-partner, help-mate, best-friend, lover and mother of my children. In that developing relationship and only through his grace I received a crash course in unconditional, life-affirming, life-long love. Wendy and I do not have a perfect life together, we have the right life together that God gifted us with. Why me? Why does He love me(and Wendy) so much? We were married on June 4, 1977. And then He gives to me the unmerited gift of getting to be the father of two incredible children, a first-born son who came along very early in our new married life, James Roland and then 11 long years later our little girl, Elizabeth Michelle. Both have been incredible blessings, both had remarkable childhoods, both found something to be passionate about as youngsters; Jim his horses, Elizabeth her love for dance! They were incredible students and today, yes, at 60 years old, my son is a veterinarian, specializing in equine care and my daughter, a brilliant teacher of civics and history to high school aged children. Incredible, and a source for this old man of great pride. Something many people do not know about me and Wendy that over this long life together we also had a little one we never got to meet. Sometime in 1988 while we were traveling and visiting with friends in Chattanooga Tennessee, we suffered the loss, and pain, of miscarriage. Funny, I have not thought much about this reality until yesterday.
I have also been blessed by God to be "pops" to grandchildren Calvin and Katelyn. They live with Jim and wife Sara some 800 miles away in beautiful North Carolina and we visit a bunch. About four times a year since Calvin, now 4 and a half, was born we hit the road and visit. And such a gift to me and Wendy, our kids have made sure we Skype about once a week too. Believe me, there is such a wonderful feeling of love that grandchildren provide. I also reflected on how generous God has been to me in the arena of friendship, whether it is old friends, the friends we made in our Jaycee days, friends from my long-time banking and lending career, our newest friends in my life that come from living in such a beautiful place as Abita Springs and the best Catholic parish family ever of St. Jane de Chantal. There is so much to cherish as this 60th birthday gave pause to reflect.
The most unlikeliest gift I have received from God, and one proving to be life-giving, as God alone truly gives life, is leading me to ordination as a Permanent Deacon in the one, true Catholic Church and the many ministry opportunities that have come though this gift. No one, over the course of my life, would have bet the farm on me being an ordained minister. But God did, He called me by name and He made the way for me to listen, to respond, to answer, to say yes. On December 13, 2008, through the grace of His Sacrament of Holy Orders, Mike Talbot of Old Algiers, became Deacon Mike. Every time I wear the vestments of a Deacon, assist a Mass, stand before a couple about to wed, hold a baby in my arms just baptized, cry the tears of one at the funeral of their loved one, preside at Benediction, visit the inmate in the prison, I stand in awe of God's vision who saw in me one He needed to serve Him by serving others. Only God's grace could bring such joy to one who aspires to nothing more than to be a servant.
Yesterday my wife made sure that although quiet, I had a nice day, and my mother-in-law even insisted that Wendy take me out on a "date" so we could share a quiet evening over good food and long-needed conversation. It was perfect. Then later in the day, my son made darn sure Pops got quality time with Calvin and Katelyn in a joy-filled Skype session! It was perfect. Today, as I concluded my service at the 10 AM mass, I went to have lunch with my wife, daughter and son-in-law only to be surprised to be joined by all my family and dearest, closest friends at the local brew pub in the heart of downtown Abita Springs. Again, perfect!
Only God makes all of this happen, only God has watched over this old fool and blessed him abundantly. Only God; on my 60th birthday, I love you, I praise you, I worship you and I say with all sincerity: Thank-You!
Once I was sixty years..........................................and the story continues!