The day I turned eighteen on November the ninth, nineteen seventy-eight, I went and bought by first legal case of beer. With me was the first girl I ever fell in love with, but sitting next to me was the girl I was currently in love with, a redhead of the truest form. Love isn’t a strong enough word for how I felt for her when I turned eighteen but because Alice Cooper had a song titled “Eighteen” I felt connected to a much larger Universe. We dropped my first love off and then my current love and I parked the car in the woods and had sex that causes me to wonder about those of that age I know now. Surely, I think to myself sometimes, that sweet little eighteen year old that rescues dogs couldn’t possibly know the same sort of insane and wonderful passion that the sixteen year old and I found in the front seat of a car parked in the woods on my birthday, so many years ago. Yet I know it is more likely than not, for the drive to love in every imaginable and physical manner is strongest in the young and they are discovering frontiers they never imagined existed. We did. They will, too. I hope they have as much fun as we did that day. I remember the redheaded girl tell me she loved me that day. I think I can remember every time she said those words. In less than a year she would be pregnant and married but not to me. I had no idea of the changes that were coming in her life, no pun intended, but they were a lot more dramatic than those I would see, at that time in my life, at eighteen.
That night I put on my headphones and listened to an eight track tape over and over and over again. Eighteen, eighteen, eighteen, I’m eighteen and I love it.
It’s harder to imagine a more different scene once the next eighteen years passed. I was thirty-six, eighteen twice, and a woman I loved, a redhead of the truest form, had broken up with me. I lived in a tiny apartment with no dogs and a dead end and hard job. I hated the apartment and I hated the job and I hated the idea that I might never leave that place, even though I would in less than six months. I had no idea that my life was about to change and change for the better. I also didn’t listen to Alice Cooper anymore. That was kinda sad because Alice Cooper was really fresh and edgy back in the day. The woman recently gone had found love with an old friend of mine and that made it worse, really, but what I didn’t know is that in about a year I would be dating his ex-fiancé’. There were changes unseen in my life. Much more so than when I was eighteen, once.
To have lived long enough to see eighteen for the third time I a lot longer than most would have given me at eighteen, once. Both of the redheads, of the truest form, are gone, a part of my past that I cannot look back at again, you know. One is a grandmother by now, I think. The other I have not heard from in over eighteen years. I wonder if my eighteenth birthday was as memorable to her as it was to me. I strongly doubt it.
But at eighteen three, ah, now that’s an interesting age. I didn’t realize it until I checked the math today, and no, I won’t tell you way, stop asking, but when I realized that two thirds of my life ago I was eighteen it tickled me somewhat. Eighteen seemed like such a milestone, such a really big deal to me back then. I could legally buy beer! I could vote! Oh boy! I would rent hotel rooms on the beach and I could …
The eighteen years went by.
All the things that seemed to incredible at the first eighteen seemed so, well, ordinary by eighteen, again. I had fallen into a rut in many ways in my life and I remember when I packed my stuff and left the small apartment how I felt like I was leaving a life behind that I would never look back at again and enjoy. I was wrong, of course, because there were many great writing ideas born in that apartment as well as more than a few great memories.
Now at Eighteen Thrice, eighteen years goes by a lot faster than I could have ever imagined. I feel as if right now, I am a better writer than I was eighteen years ago. I have lived with many dogs since then and have loved great ones. The dog thing, I think that was what was missing at Eighteen 2.0. Life really isn’t the same without a dog or three. The time I spent with Bert and Sam and Lucas did not add up to be eighteen, but in dog years it was eighteen many times over. If love is measured in the multiples of joy just those three dogs gave me eighteen million years’ worth.
Pick a random number, any random number, and look back. Eighteen is arbitrary and that’s okay, really it is, for a lot happens, or doesn’t happen, in eighteen years, and that’s okay, too. It’s not those eighteen years that will define you but how you live afterwards, always, the future, not the past. Eighteen will come and go, as we all will, and then one day you will not have eighteen more years. That, too, will be okay. There will come a day you will have been gone for eighteen years. There will come a day that someone related to you in some way will remember you eighteen years later. Or eighteen twice, or eighteen three times or more.
You can only hope that person is grinning when they remember you.