Over the Hill.

Reflections on turning 40

Travis W. King

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When I was 10, my mom died from breast cancer. A few years before that, my dad turned 40. We threw a party for him at our ranch-style suburban house. It’s one of the strongest memories I have of us as a nuclear family.

I remember the sunny day at our beige and brick home in Bayside, Wisconsin, 15 minutes north of Milwaukee. I remember the plates and cups. They read “Over the Hill.”

A photo from one of my early birthday parties at the same beige, ranch-style house. I’m still good friends with a number of the kids in this photo, including Kurlo laughing in the foreground, and Carl with his bright blond poof of hair in the back. But for me, my mom steals the photo.

I remember my mom in a wheelchair. I remember my brother in his Umbros. I remember Sasha, our black lab, hoping people would drop food in the freshly mowed grass. I remember my dad looking good as he mingled, sporting a full head of dark hair. He could have been an extra in a mafia movie — a muscular 5 foot 7 with a thick dark mane combed backward. My mom had no hair left after many rounds of chemo, but her head was wrapped beautifully in a blue silk scarf that had swans on it.

I’m 40 now.

It’s hard to believe. Especially when I think of that boy watching my dad celebrate his 40th. I remember eating cake from those “Over the Hill” plates with their wacky, celebratory font. If I close my eyes, I’m there.

Now I’m Over the Hill? Okay.

I’ve often reminded him over the past decade that I’m almost 40 as an explanation of why I don’t want his advice. His love language is advice, so I try to keep our conversations to things that have happened, not what might happen, because I don’t want his generation’s worries put on me. If what might happen comes up, there will be advice. There will be worry. There will be a moment where I’ll want to say “Dad, I know, I’m almost 40!”

At 40, my dad is still here. He’s just getting closer to 80 now. He’s getting old, and I worry about when he won’t be here. I love him deeply, but our relationship, like many father-son relationships, is two different sides of the same coin.

My pops (around 39 in this photo) and me taking a quick nap. I blew this photo up and framed it for him a few years back as a gift. I love it.

I’m deeply grateful to my Pops. Often, I see myself in him in the best possible way. I know he sees himself in me. Also, I see myself wanting to prove to him that all of his fears are wrong.

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Travis W. King

Traveling, writing, & working abroad for 10 years. Former Remote Year Dir. of Community. Check out my travel memoir—Not That Anyone Asked—at www.traviswking.com