Jeremy was born just four days before my 60th birthday, so whereas I may strike out on placing someone else's age, I don't err in knowing how old he is -- me less 60. I was planning a 60th birthday party for myself in November that year; neither he nor his parents attended, because they were loading up escorting him home from the hospital. (I caught up with him and them a few days later, at his birth.)
Jeremy is my great-nephew, elder son of my niece Marcia and her husband Andy. Starting with his earliest days, I attended many of Jeremy's birthday parties in Brooklyn and loved him even though his spells of unlovability which I figured would pass one day or another. Along the way he decided to skip the "uncle" in front of my name. It came as a jolt at first, but by now I don't mind since his spell of unlovability did pass, and he's turned into a handsome, decent fellow who worked his way through four years at a tough university in Chicago. Those years earned him a Fulbright fellowship, and now he is in Germany for a year, teaching English in an elementary school in Berlin. The work there, he admits, is not so taxing that it prevents him from taking up guitar again and getting to know his temporary home town.
There are, then, 22 years since his parents sat out my 60th birthday, placing Jeremy at 22 and me, well, 60 years older. Hard to believe either age.
Like joltingly early sunsets in late October and early November, come a cluster of birthdays for not only Jeremy but Jay, Pierre, Christina, Elissa, Anita, Eric, Pauline, et moi. When I examine the calendar, that grouping may not be surprising, since nine months earlier, February or so, is gray and dark and stay-inside climate.
Anyway, I know a surprising number of people whose birthdays fall around this time of year, more than any other. Not only know, but like. Most of us come under the sign of Scorpio, a reputedly impossible group. (They say that the best chance of getting along with a Scorpio is to be one.)
I don't have any children, but if I did, I think it would be fine to give birth to one in November. I like this month, past summer but holding off winter. Smart fall clothes, sweaters and caps, emerge from closets or moth-ball filled drawers. On a lot of days the air is terrific, brisk -- football weather, we used to say in college. You move quickly to get things done before night descends at 5 or 5:30. Thanksgiving at the end of the month is a holiday for family and friends, mercifully non-commercial, at least in the past.
Jeremy has a younger brother Miles, now in his second year of college in Baltimore. I love Miles, also my great-nephew, as much as his elder brother, and if I focus on Jeremy, it has a lot to do with the origin of his name. In Jewish tradition, babies are named for someone deceased, and Jeremy was named for my older brother Jerome, who died far too early, at age 38. The only possible consolation that my father could foresee was to have a baby named for the beloved son he lost. So he asked every expectant parent he knew to name the child for Jerome. Though my father didn't live to see it, his granddaughter Marcia fulfilled that wish and named her first son for her father, Jerome. Jeremy likewise never knew the grandfather he was named for. The tradition is a way to keep a person alive, but I've often wished that Jerome had lived to know his grandson, whether the boy was named for him or not.
So it's Scorpio time again, and candles are lit on many cakes. Jeremy can, with luck, look forward to many more birthdays and birthday cakes. I smile when it's my turn, grateful to chalk off another year, though my preference might be for those anniversaries to come along with slightly less frequency.
Stanley Ely writes about aging and lots more in his new memoir, "Life Up Close," in paperback and ebook.