Today is my husband’s birthday. As he was turning 45 in 2008, he started feeling more and more depressed about getting older and didn’t want to make a big fuss over his birthday anymore. So to get him out of this birthday funk, for the past ten years I’ve planned little “birthday parties” just for the three of us. He has always been adamant that I NOT throw him a big party with lots of guests and I have always abided.
The first party was a James Bond 007 Casino Royale theme – we made him dress in a tux-like suit with bow tie and decorated the house to look like a casino. We played various gambling games such as poker, craps and keno and I even made a fondant cake that looked like a poker chip.
The second party was a mock hike of the Appalachian Trail. We made a “trail” around the house, strategically placing various stuffed animals, along with trail blazes, in order to give that outdoor nature feeling.
A pirate theme forced my husband to wear a pirate cap, eye patch and black cape while playing pin-the-treasure-chest on the treasure map, shooting toy cannonballs at a pirate ship and looking for treasure.
When he turned 51, we had the official “old as dirt” party. And when he secretly admitted how much he adored Hello Kitty, that was the theme for 2015…
In 2016, my husband’s birthday was on Tu b’Shevat, the Jewish new year for the trees.
It was the Hello Kitty party that I was planning when my mother was rushed to the hospital for the last time. By the time I got to her, she was completely delusional and rambling incoherently, demanding to know why I was there and accusing the doctors of various heinous crimes. This would be the last conversation I would ever have with her. It was a Sunday. By the following Tuesday, my sisters, Kathy and Regina, and I brought our mother home to die. All life support was removed. We eased her pain as much as possible and took care of her body to ensure her dignity. We met with nurses and social workers and the chaplain who presented us with that stone heart. Michael would join us on Friday. For seven days we watched over her, waiting…wondering…desperate…each time she seemed to draw her last breath, we sobbed exhausted. Other times we drew on our family humor to get us through the day.
Finally, the night before my 50th birthday, I visited my mother one last time. I sat in the dark, holding her hand, rubbing it and just sat looking at her. By then the death rattle was prominent and frightening. Feeling her end was near, I leaned over to her and said, “Mommy, it’s not about giving up, it’s about letting go.” I promised her that her children would stick together, despite our differences, and look out for one another. And then I left…
On my way home, I impulsively decided to stop at the mall and buy myself something for my birthday. I found myself in one of my mother’s favorite stores, Boscov’s. After wandering around for some time, I bought myself a new shirt and headed home. As soon as I pulled my new shirt out of its bag, Kathy called me with the news – mom had died ten minutes after I left her while I was shopping at Boscov’s…
On this day of my husband’s birthday, it was the first time in a long time that it didn’t snow and the temperatures went above 50 degrees, so naturally I went for a bike ride.
Today I decided to stop at a gazebo I’ve never stopped at before, taking a very cool accidental photo of my shadow and discovering lots of love graffiti, old wasp nests and remnants of barbecues and picnics past. I thought about past parties we threw for my husband on this day. And then I thought about this day two years ago, apologizing to my husband over not having our usual birthday party. I realized that this was the warmest birthday he has had since before 2008. And I remembered that crazy snow storm enveloping my mother’s neighborhood the day I picked up Michael and his wife from the airport.
I’m sad that my husband’s birthday reminds me of the last words with mom, but I’m glad I have a festive day to help me overcome my sadness. Whether he likes it or not, we’re going to always celebrate the day he was born, regardless of how old, bald and wrinkly he becomes.
So today is my husband’s 54th birthday. He told me not to do anything and that all he wanted was hot dogs…
Happy Birthday Woobie!
Perry Como was my mother’s favorite singer…and hot dogs were my father’s favorite dinner…
“Never knew that my heart could go “zing” thattaway
Ting-a-ling thattaway, make me sing thattaway
Said “goodbye” to my troubles, they went thattaway
Ever since you came into my life”
Hot Diggity – Perry Como
“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump