Today is my birthday. I have reached the ripe (but not spoiled) age of 47. I am proud to be 47 today. I am in a good place in my life. I have two wonderful (yet challenging) children. I think that it’s the challenging aspects of parenthood keep me young. I have a husband that adores me, and the feeling is mutual. I have great friends and family…and I don’t look 47. I think that’s the best part of all.
I don’t know what the family is planning for my birthday; I just hope there is cake. I love cake. And wine. And steak.
But the birthdays haven’t always been so joyful. I am not too bothered by aging, so that part of my birthdays have always been fairly easy to handle. I turned 40 and it was great. I turned 30 and it was great. Twenty-five was kind of tough. I think the thought of being a quarter of a century old was kind of mind-blowing. Which is kind of funny considering I will be half a century in three years.
One particular birthday was especially bad. I refer to it as the “birthday from hell.”
I turned 26 that year and my ex, Tom and I were living in Minneapolis. Since my birthday is twelve days before Christmas, the two have usually been mixed together, although my mother always wrapped my birthday presents in birthday paper, not Christmas. Tom’s nearly hated Christmas…all because he worked in retail and the Christmas frenzy started before Halloween.
The Birthday From Hell started the night before my birthday. Tom had stayed in town late to shop for my birthday present and I was in bed before he got home. The next morning when I woke up, I was filled with birthday anticipation and light. The day headed downhill from there. Tom didn’t talk to me all morning while we got dressed for work. Not a word. I kept wondering when a “Happy Birthday” would come out of his mouth. He almost acted like he was angry with me.
The whole time I got dressed and during the drive to his bus stop, I kept wondering why he was so angry. Tom and I never fought. We had Silences. So when he didn’t talk to me all morning, it became clear we were in a Silence. When he jumped out of the car door at his stop, he grabbed his briefcase and said, “Have a nice day” in a sarcastic tone. The second the car door slammed, I started to cry. What had I done wrong? Had he forgotten my birthday? The drive to work was spent pouring through the events of the night before: What had I done?
I was so upset when I arrived at work that I sat in my cubicle and silently cried. I was just drying my tears when my friends jumped over the cubicle wall with birthday well-wishes. That sent me into another crying jag. How could these women whom I’d only know a short while remember my birthday while my husband did not? I sat at my desk for an hour with an ache in my chest.
Finally, I decided to take action. I picked up the phone and called the florist. I ordered a bouquet of flowers to be delivered to his office with a card that said, “I don’t know what I did, but I’m sorry.” I know, I know. It was a lame-ass thing to do, but I wasn’t the person I am now. I often walked on eggshells with Tom and always tried to keep peace no matter what cost. The rest of the day was a blur. Not what one expects on their birthday. The day should have been filled with happiness, not tears and self-doubt.
I went home with a heavy heart unsure what to expect. When Tom came home, I tried to disappear; hiding how hurt I felt. He was a different person than the one I had dropped off in the morning. He was filled with contrition for his earlier behavior. When I asked what I had done to trigger his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality switch, he said, “nothing.”
Nothing? Then what the hell happened? He told me he couldn’t find exactly the right gift to give me for my birthday. He was pissed he couldn’t find what he was looking for. Apparently, he decided to take his feelings out on me. I think when he received my offering of flowers, he was ashamed. He should have been.
For the next eight years that he was alive, I never knew if there would be a repeat performance. I began to dread my birthday, although he never did anything like that to me again. I often reminded him of his behavior in jest, but behind my humor was hurt and anger.
It has taken me years to get over my 26th birthday. I told Colby the story after we started dating. He keeps assuring me it will never happen again because he’s not Tom. He is right, he is not Tom, and once more the joy, happiness, and anticipation for my birthday has been restored.
And I remain quite tickled that I still don’t look my age.