“Appreciate what you have before it becomes what you had,” said someone much wiser than me.

I turned 68 on June 1. I have many reasons to be happy. My four adult children, Nikki, Brenna, Sean and Aaron have all done very well. And my four grandchildren, Carlios, Cameron, Haley and Ariyon have incredible healing power over me. It matters not how bad, tired or sorry for myself I may be feeling, when I see them, all my emotional aches and body pains melt away.

“What do you want for your birthday?” “Where do you want to go have dinner?” “What do you want to do?” Those are birthday questions that have all been asked of me for the past two weeks.

Here are my answers.

The best present you can give me is to have all my children and grandchildren together on my birthday. We could be at the beach, at Rosemary’s having ice cream or quietly sitting in my living room watching scary movies…just as long as we are all together. That’s when I feel most whole and happy.

And besides, my birthday presents have been happening all year. Here are a few examples.

My granddaughter Haley whispered to me that on her birthday, she wanted to learn how to ride a bike without her training wheels. So we, my son-in-law Carlos, Nikki, Aaron and Brenna took the grandkids to Beach Park and spent a beautiful afternoon cleaning up bruises and putting on band-aids on us over-cautious and injury prone adults while Haley and her younger brother Ariyon learned how to ride their bikes … mostly without incident.

Watching my grandson Cameron play varsity football, seeing my son-in-law Carlos and my grandson Carlios barbecue together, watching my daughter Brenna play with Ariyon and Haley in our living room as they laughed and charmingly and successfully cheated at Uno, seeing Nikki holding Ariyon as though she is protecting him from anything that would ever harm him, teaching Ariyon how to play Checkers and hearing the laughter of my daughter-in-law Yvonne and son Sean with his brother Aaron laughing at our kitchen counter.

Simple things for many, but year-round birthday presents for me.

What is my favorite dinner?

What I eat is almost irrelevant. It is when we can all sit together at one table, hold hands and pray before we eat and enjoy each other’s company … almost as much as we enjoy our food. Because we have a large family, it is rare and has proven very difficult for this to happen. So when it does, it’s a no holds barred, free for all with multiple conversations, you better not be on your cell phone family event.

Now if dinner is home-made tacos, or barbecue oysters or lobster, even better.

“Where do you want to go or what do you want to do for your birthday?”

I really have no say in this matter this year. “Don’t you dare plan anything this weekend,” was the dictum ordered by my children.

When you read this column I will hopefully have returned unharmed from a mysterious weekend family kidnapping. The only clues I have as to what is happening, is camping gear began showing up early in the week.

Items like canopies, camping stove, air mattress, bottles of wine and assorted essential gear to ensure we could survive any apocalyptic event and would be able to survive for a month - even though it is just a weekend trip - have clogged our home’s entryway for several days.

I have tried my best father mental judo and Jedi mind tricks, but no one is giving up where they are taking me. Pray for me sweet baby Jesus.

As long as my family is together, enjoying each other’s company and realizing that tomorrow is promised to no one, I know I will be happy.

I always thought 68 was old. The new definition of old to me is anyone who is 10 years older than me. Now that’s old.

Appreciate what you have before it becomes what you had. Wise words.

I plan to do so on this day and other birthdays in which God chooses to bless me.

Email contributing columnist Steve Flores at floressteve32@yahoo.com. His work normally appears here every third Monday; the views expressed are his own.

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