Yesterday was my birthday. I was 78 years old. Birthdays were always events as I grew up. My mother was usually offended with somebody on her birthday, often with me because I often forgot the day. As we both got older I remembered it more and so she was usually offended at someone else rather than at me. Ours is a big family so somebody almost always forgot.
I tried to de-emphasize birthdays. That made life easier for me, since I am not good at remembering other peoples’. I never feel offended with my friends or my children if they don’t remember my birthday. They are busy, and besides, I often forget theirs.
But my husband is a different matter. Husbands should remember their wives’ birthdays. My husbands of the past generally remembered and took notice. Although my husband of the present, Jerry, is my favorite husband, he is a birthday problem.
A little of his history and character will help explain. I am his third wife. His second marriage was a long and happy one. His wife had died shortly before I met him. She was a strong, intelligent organized creative and sensible woman. He is much the same. Together they were practical, unsentimental and frugal. They didn’t do holidays or birthdays which they regarded as ways that commercial interests get people to needlessly spend money.
My family and I, frivolous lot that we are, often make a big fuss over birthdays and holidays (and just as often forget them).
So on this birthday I got a card from one daughter (she will do more on her own schedule – she is a busy lawyer) and a call from my British daughter. I got an email from one grandchild, a call from my cousin in New Zealand, a card from my sister (one for “Sister” with flowers and glitter on it) and a card from my insurance agent.
Jerry woke me up at 5:30 in the morning and said “Happy Birthday.” I went back to sleep, and when I woke again at 7 I could see that no more was to be said or done about it. I struggled not to sulk.
I washed my hair, put on my favorite pants and a pink tunic and a necklace. I thought I should look well groomed on my birthday. Jerry made my tea as he always does, and we caught the 10 o’clock ferry to town to see our tax person to get our taxes done.
I thought that Tracy, our friend and tax lady, would notice that it was my birthday. But she didn’t, so I pointed it out. She immediately congratulated me, and we went on with the work at hand. After a while she remarked that we would get a refund. “Well,” I said looking meaningfully at Jerry, “There’s a birthday present.”
When we left I said to Jerry (with damp eyes and a little quiver in my voice), “It hurts my feelings when you ignore my birthday.”
He said, sadly, “I would do something, but I just can’t think what. I could take you out to breakfast. I could get you flowers, but you already got them yourself” (I had bought a bunch of daffodils at the grocery store a couple of days before.)
I pointed out that we already had breakfast. We went to Costco to get allergy pills. I lingered at the flowers in Costco, gazing miserably at them. He noticed, and asked, nervously, “Do you want me to get you some flowers? If so, you’ll have to pick them out. I don’t know what to get.”
I sighed deeply, and with my best martyr attitude said, “You don’t have to get me flowers.”
I had been considering my birthday dinner. My friend Gwen had suggested that Jerry take me out to dinner on Valentine’s Day, which he had done, so I knew I wasn’t due for a dinner out, and didn’t really want it anyhow. But I thought of getting lobster tails which Costco usually has. I found 2 small lobster tails for an appetizer, with plans for steak as a second course. I rethought the flowers, and told Jerry I would have some. I picked them out. (Red carnations: they last a long time and the roses looked a bit tired.) Once, a couple of years ago, Jerry bought me roses – without being asked to.
Then we bought the New York Times and went to Barns and Noble for a latte. (Barnes and Noble doesn’t sell newspapers any more which makes it less desirable as a stop to avoid waits at the ferry.) At B and N I bought a book of poetry by Billy Collins. My mood was improving, and I said to Jerry, “Don’t worry, tomorrow I’ll be back to normal. It won’t be my birthday for another year.” Since it was Monday, I had the cross word puzzle finished by the time we got to the ferry dock.
At home I went inside to let the dogs out. They squeaked ecstatically. Jerry brought the stuff in from the car.
“Oh, you bought me flowers! How sweet of you!” I said. We laughed and embraced.
I mixed the carnations with the daffodils and some white iberis from the garden and put them on the table.
We lay down for a nap and my British daughter called to say happy birthday. I said, “I’m so glad you called. I can’t tell from your blog how you really are. It sounds so cheerful. Are you really that cheerful?”
“I’m in the Pub, Muth, on my cell phone.” This child doesn’t reveal much, but I think she sounded pretty cheerful. She said nothing much was happening. We had a nice chat.
Then Jerry and I went for our afternoon walk with the dogs. At our beach we found our friend Larry pulling his boat up the beach. It had been damaged by a log in extra high tides. We lingered in the sunshine and discussed island politics for a few minutes. I told Larry that it was my birthday, and he wished me a happy birthday.
On the way home Jerry and I discussed national politics. We agreed that the health care industry is not a “market” as the Republicans seem to think. When we got home I cooked an artichoke. While I was cooking dinner Jerry wrapped his arms around me, which he often does, and refers to it as “messing with the cook.” For dinner we had, first, the artichoke, then the lobster tails. They were good, but not as good as Maine lobsters. Then we had T-bone steak, cooked outside on the grill, and salad. A close to perfect dinner.
Later I tried to watch the Olympics, because I like to see the ice dancing. But there were just too many commercials. I really think there are more commercials than actual competitions shown.
Today I am back to normal. A whole year before I’m 79.