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20Reinartz AUS RK/ kh/

Monday marks the first day of the fifth decade of my existence. On April 23, 1967, I came into this world on what according to the Weather Channel’s Web site was the coldest April 23 on record for this area. Hmm, must explain my disgust with cold weather.

Anyhow, to my point: Society lightheartedly but somewhat seriously says a person’s 40th birthday is supposed to be something to fear, the beginning of the inevitable slide into the "golden years." Birthday cards and gag gifts are primarily black, and grim reaper-themed, and we are made to feel that we are standing with one foot already in the grave.

But I don’t feel that way. I have no fear of staring down the golden barrel of old age, and not because 40 is the new 20, whatever that means, and I hope it doesn’t mean that I have to put an earring in my face and start wearing my baseball cap sideways.

Whatever the case, it’s also not even the fact that I feel my body deteriorating faster than President Bush’s approval rating. Seems I have a new ache, pain or throbbing every day, but I’m not letting that concern me either.

Nope, I’m looking forward to the fifth decade of my life with great anticipation because it coincides with the beginning of the second decade of my life of marriage to the woman who helped give my life meaning in the first place.

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The first couple of decades of my life were really nothing out of the ordinary. I had a typical middle-class upbringing, during which I was taught right from wrong. I made good friends and stayed out of trouble for the most part. I played sports and I got zits.

Then came my third decade of life: my 20s, which ended up being kind of a lost weekend. Oh, you better believe I packed a lot of good times into those 10 years, but I paid little attention to the future and emerged from that decade with little to show for it besides some student loans and credit-card bills.

Then came my third decade of life: my 20s, which ended up being kind of a lost weekend. Oh, you better believe I packed a lot of good times into those 10 years, but I paid little attention to the future and emerged from that decade with little to show for it besides some student loans and credit-card bills.

So I find some irony in the fact that my wedding day came just 11 days before my 30th birthday. That day signaled the end of one era and the beginning of a new one, in which my life took a turn for the better.

That’s what I mean when I say my wife gave my life meaning. She gave me someone to share the journey of life with. After her came two beautiful children, a college degree and, up to now, my favorite decade. That’s why I say I’m looking forward to my 40s. I’m not worried about getting old. I’ve enjoyed the past 10 years and I’m looking forward to what life has in store for the next decade.

Sure, like any other marriage, ours has had its ups and down, but on April 12, 1997, we said, "For better or worse," and we’re sticking to it. It’s those ups and downs that strengthen a relationship.

So bring on the 40s, I say. Bring on the black birthday cards and the over-the-hill jokes. Bring on life’s new adventures and challenges. Bring on the aches. Bring on the pains, and bring on my 20th anniversary. I’m looking forward to telling you about it all in another 10 years.

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