Dear Abby

The Best Birthday Present Is to Grow Older Every Year

DEAR ABBY: "49 and Holding" (Dec. 5), who doesn't want her daughter to give her a 50th birthday party, needs to grow up and learn to celebrate life instead of hiding from the fact that she's growing older. She is aging because she's alive -- and what a blessing that is.

I lived through the worst years of the AIDS epidemic and witnessed the deaths of more than 200 friends -- all of whom would have loved to celebrate a 50th birthday. My mother died at 82 and was grateful for every year, as am I.

Life's milestones warrant a party. Those who don't want to celebrate life and the birthdays that come with it should consider the alternative. -- BRUCE C., ATLANTA

DEAR BRUCE: My readers agreed that "Holding" should quit whining and enjoy life because everyone isn't so fortunate. Growing old is a gift, and it sure does beat the alternative! Read on:

DEAR ABBY: Sorry, 50 is NOT the new 30. Fifty is 50! One of the reasons "Holding" may have issues with aging is this obsession with youth. Youth is definitely transitory, but that doesn't mean one's health, beauty and vibrancy vanish. "Holding" has every right to feel as she does, but I hope she won't continue sitting on the sidelines of life.

By the way, I'll be celebrating my 51st birthday in a few days. My daughter is taking me to Las Vegas to paint the town ... not red (too youthful) but crimson. You definitely DO get better as you age! -- JACQUELINE W., CHANDLER, ARIZ.

DEAR ABBY: I admit that I felt much as "Holding" did until my sister told me that, for her, turning 50 was an exceptionally freeing experience. It's true. At that age, I realized I wasn't going to be the CEO of the company I worked for, that I had a job I enjoyed, that my family was there for me in whatever I chose to pursue, and that there were places on this planet I wanted to visit (and have). I have found it difficult finding a downside to being 50.

Age is in your head, Abby. I've met 10-year-olds who are eons past 50, and 70-year-olds who are as curious, inquisitive and active as people far younger. So I say, go for it proudly. -- PAST 50 AND FABULOUS

DEAR ABBY: Everyone regards aging differently, but why be depressed over something you can't control? When I turned 50, I decided I could either be depressed and drink myself silly or celebrate the milestone.

I declared to my family, friends and co-workers that it was my year and my goal was to do 50 things I had never done before -- or hadn't done in a long time. I reconnected with neglected friends, went on my first cruise, stayed in a haunted hotel. While I didn't quite make it to 50 things (I made it to 30), it was fun trying, and everyone had a blast in the process. -- 50-PLUS AND DEALING WITH IT

DEAR ABBY: At 36 I was diagnosed with cancer. My son was only 5. As radiation treatments pulsed through my body in the hope of giving me more life, I wondered if those would be his last memories of me.

Fast forward 13 years. I am 49 and holding -- with one major difference. I look forward to each and every birthday. In a few months, I'll turn 50. And do you know what looks even better than my 50th birthday? My 60th!

Birthdays are a celebration of life, a reminder that we have the good fortune to be with the people who mean the most to us. -- THANKFUL FOR EACH AND EVERY DAY

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby -- Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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