My day of self-absorption

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.

Birtheay flowers

Birtheay flowers

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.

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30 Responses to My day of self-absorption

  1. Duchess says:

    Ah, now that is another difference between us. Just about my least favourite day in the whole year is the day after my birthday. No one has to be nice to me and I am still just as old.

  2. Diane says:

    I’ve been following your blog; enjoy it so much.

    This story of your birthday sounded much like what I experience with my current husband (he’s my 6th husband).

    I really chuckled as I read through your post – how it sounded so ‘common’ around my house since I married my most recent husband 10 years ago.

    I’m 68; so far, I’m doing my best to accept the fact that birthdays aren’t such a ‘big deal’ as they once were.

    I also enjoy your art-work; I paint, draw, play piano and write poetry, so I thoroughly enjoy your posts. Diane

  3. annie says:

    Happy Birthday! I like you hope people will fuss over me for my special day. I think it is because as a child not a lot of fuss was made. This year I turned 50, not a lot of fuss at all. For some reason it didn’t bother me like I thought it would.

  4. Happy Birthday! I’m of the minimal birthday fuss school myself, but we’re all different.

  5. Nancy Andreasen says:

    My 78th b-day was last November. My family always wants to know what I want to do, and I never know. It feels awkward to have the attention focused on me,, although I regularly focus on them when they have birthdays. My husband usually remembers, but is clueless about festivities. After 45 years I’m used to it.

  6. Kay Dennison says:

    Happy Birthday!!!!!! And many more!!!!

    No one remembers my birthday. It’s okay. I know when it is.

    It sounds like you had a pretty nice day — one that I would have enjoyed anyway.

  7. Dale says:

    xoxox Happy birthday, Anne! And now — write out some careful directions, and make reference to them on whatever calendar Jerry uses, say a week short of a year from now, so he’ll know to buy flowers and make a fuss exactly as you would like. He’s obviously the sort of man who just needs straightforward directions. (Speaking as the same sort myself.) I know, I know, he ought to know all by himself, but if he doesn’t he doesn’t, & it’s clearly not for lack of love & affection. He just needs a bit of training 🙂

    (I enjoyed this post inordinately, I’m afraid. My gender, clued or clueless!)

  8. Lavenderbay says:

    Happy birthday, Anne! Nice “save”, exclaiming happily about the flowers when Jerry took them from the car.

  9. Hattie says:

    When it comes to birthdays I’m pro-active. On the big ones I throw myself a party! My 70th last June was quite a bash.

  10. Tessa says:

    Your ‘unrevealing’ British daughter had already alerted her (some of them, like me, also your) faithful readers that it was your birthday, Anne. So I guess that makes her almost as soppy as yourself about these bookmark days!

    Like Jerry, I resent the way in which birthdays and other special days have been taken over by commercial interests. But, like you, I get a bit stroppy, despite myself, when my nearest and dearest forget all about them. My father was the one in our family who remembered every person’s birthday, and I’m the carrier of that gene for this generation. It’s a curse, really, because, although I’m not inclined to do anything about most of the birthdays I remember, I feel guilty about it.

  11. Darlene says:

    Happy Belated Birthday, Anne. I hope someone tips Jerry off next year that you would like something special to mark the day.

    My husband never remembered my birthday or our anniversary, so I had the children remind him. When they were gone, so were the birthday remembrances.

  12. Jan says:

    Happy belated birthday, Anne. It’s hard for Beloved to forget my birthday, being stuck three days before Christmas as it is, but this year we BOTH forgot our anniversary, which is January 2. About five days later, I turned to him while we were driving in the car and said, “Our anniversary was Saturday – that just occurred to me.”

    He wished me a Happy Anniversary and I wished him one and we just kept driving.

  13. Mage B says:

    Congratulations… wonderful to share the day with us. 🙂 I’m sorry he isn’t a warm and fuzzy type, but I really understand that. Mine only remembers because he forgot a grandchild once and didn’t get forgiven easily.

  14. Anne, this is a timeless post. If someone is doing a collection of how we drive ourselves and spouses crazy, my nomination goes to “My day of self-absorption.” Wonderful writing, spectacularly honest!

  15. Happy birthday to you! I am the same way about birthdays. My worst birthday was my 40th when my husband didn’t even acknowledge it. I was expecting a BIG DEAL. I pouted all day.

  16. Oops … I meant my 24th birthday.
    I am eternally 24, you know!
    : )

  17. wisewebwoman says:

    Oh I’m so with you on this one Anne, I never quite know what I want, attention of course, but not sure what kind. I’ve pity-potted myself so much that often it is the kindness of strangers that cheer me up!
    I self-partied a few times and that was good.
    but flowers are very special and I’m so glad Jerry ‘surprised’ you with them!
    Keep trucking, my friend!

  18. Sally says:

    Sometimes we make our own birthdays what they are, and you did a good job to give yourself Birthday joy. Glad you got some flowers and a hug. I had a husband who bought great cards and meant none of it. I now have a husband who is unable to get around and buy the cards and gifts anymore, but the love is the real thing. Funny how things change. Happy belated Birthday, and I think that tax refund is yours!

  19. rosie says:

    i try to forget my birthday, but i dont like it if anyone else does…

  20. Ruth D~ says:

    Happy birthday! I love the flower story… who wants to pick out her own? But you got some after all. That’s love.

  21. Tabor says:

    For some reason I have failed to link your blog to my list of blogs to visit and read. I will have to figure out how to correct that. Your birthday was very nice, calm, somewhat under planned, but perfect for those of us who have been through so many birthdays I think. For Valentines I cooked a dinner at the rented condo in Florida and bought myself a bottle of wine and bouquet of flowers. Hubby kepts promising a dinner at a distant fancy restaurant, but that never came to be.

  22. Pat D says:

    Anne, I loved this story. And Happy Belated Birthday!

  23. Rain says:

    Happy Birthday belatedly. I can relate to your mixed feelings about it. I tend to favor men who don’t remember such days and aren’t good at words but I’d prefer the actions of a year round dependable person to one day something special anyway– or so I tell myself 😉

  24. Karin Doyle says:

    Birthdays! I could write a whole post about them someday but now I’ll just wish you belated birthday wishes and mention the card I found for my daughter’s birthday. A little kitten on the front saying “there’s something wonderful missing from my life” and inside it said “You” and I wished her Happy Birhday. She’ll be 44 Monday and still hasn’t forgiven me any of my mistakes nor taken responsibility for her own life. I don’t know what her reaction to the card will be but there’s nothing I can do right in her mind.

  25. herhimnbryn says:

    Hallo and Happy Birthday!
    I’m with Dale on this…Your beloved just needs a few guidelines to help him out. My Sister-in-law reminds her husband a month before her birthday, in subtle ways… notes of his car windscreen!

  26. Marion says:

    I hope you are having a Happy Birthday Month! I really enjoy reading your blog. You write well.

  27. Friko says:

    Happy Belated Birthday, Anne!

    I find these insights into other people’s lives fascinating. There is so much that one would never find worth repeating yet in a blog it becomes the stuff of lifeblood. (sorry if I’m a bit melodramatic)

    As for husbands and birthdays, or any other kind of celebration: Do you know the one that goes “I’d be happy to do anything you’d like to do, just tell me what you’d like”.

    Your Jerry sounds a splendid chap. Like mine. It’s the splendid, down-to-earth-kind-and-considerate ones who are also the least imaginative. And mine’s an artist! Flowers? Forget it. I did get a Valentine’s card this year!

  28. Annie in TO says:

    Wonderful! Happy happy and many more! Lovely post, as always.

  29. Dick says:

    Late but hearty birthday wishes, Anne!

  30. Happy Belated Birthday. I never would have guessed your age from your picture on the About page

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