Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Post mortem

OK, so I've written way too much about my birthday on here, which sort of shoots my assertion that I don't like birthday or drawing a lot of attention to them. And since is the first October that has passed on this here particular blog, you have no evidence to the contrary. So, you just have to take my word that I'm not a big fan of birthdays.

There is a reason for that. I think I'm mentioned that a bit before, but let me just say that my family sucks at birthdays. We are pathetic. We don't do cards. We don't do gifts. As often as not we don't even call to wish a happy birthday.

I've done my damnedest to break that pattern with my daughter. The time around her birthday has been a special time for us. Well, I can't actually speak for her, and who knows what a teenage girl's response to a query about how special her birthday is with her biological father. But it's a safe bet, there would be some eye-rolling involved.

But since she started school, her birthday has generally followed her school's spring vacations. And since I was living in California for the last 10 years, I have made it a tradition to try to spend her spring vacation and/or birthday with her whenever possible. That got screwed up a couple of years ago, when I got hauled off to Florida for my ex's sister's wedding. We were going to try to take my daughter with us, but a big trip like that for a week to spend time with people she didn't even know wasn't her idea of fun. The Florida beaches for spring break sounded good in theory, but as the date drew near, she opted out. I didn't blame her. I would have opted out too if I thought all my body parts would have remained attached to their rightful locations.

But the guilt of not being able to see my daughter near her birthday was pretty powerful and in an attempt to (over) compensate I bought her her first set of really nice earrings. I've been told you can't buy love, but until I see proof I'm taking no chances.

All that is a way of saying I've tried to make birthdays a fairly big deal for my daughter. They were never a big deal in our house, and as a kid, particularly as a teenager, that was a big deal with me. I'm not sure I've ever gotten over it. In fact I'm sure I haven't. There is still a lot of not-so latent hostility on my part. I now "forget" the birthdays of my parents, and brothers regularly. I mean, I know when they are, I just often choose not to recognize them. I do try to call my mom at least. She knows a slight when she feels one, and I don't need that guilt. And my parents' wedding anniversary and my dad's birthday are only a couple of days apart. So I try to kill two holidays with one call. But I don't do gifts for them. They don't do gifts for me either. It's a pretty equitable arrangement, if warped.

It used to really bug me when friends, some of them not much more than casual acquaintances really, recognized my birthday in a bigger way than my family did. Pissed me off actually. My friends say or do something nice and I react with more resentment toward my parents. Not good.

So, for many years I have tried to just ignore my birthday as much as possible. Oh, sure, I would still hope to find a card in the mailbox, but I would do my best not to expect one or get bent out of shame when none came. Instead I would try to do something for myself on my birthday and call it good. When possible, I would take the day off from work, which can be a nice little gift in and of itself. Sometimes I'd go for a drive. Maybe I'd see 2 or 3 movies in one day at the theater. Spring for a nice dinner for myself. One year I bought myself a computer and a digital camera to replace the home computer that had fried that fall. A couple of years I made plans to attend an air show at Edwards Air Force Base.

One year, my parent came to visit me in California. I had told my dad about the Edwards Air Show and he thought that sounded like a good excuse for a road trip. It was the only time my mom ever came to California in the 10 years I lived there. Dad made a few visits, taking detours on business trips and the like. He even came down to help me move from Central California to Palm Springs and he made at least one other visit while I was in Palm Springs. But that one trip was all mom managed to make in a decade. Oh, she had traveled to Europe once, Australia a couple of times, but California just wasn't in the cards I guess.

Anyway, my parents were visiting and we went out to dinner. The date: Oct. 17, 1997. During dinner Dad looks at his watch and says something like "What's the date today?"

Normally, I have to look at the calendar setting on my watch too, no matter how many times I've checked the date already, but that date I know. I had it cold.

"October 17th," I said.

"October? Don't you have a birthday coming up pretty soon?"

Now, if my dad had a better sense of humor, I might have thought he was pulling my leg. Dad's just not that funny. Not intentionally anyway.

"Yea." I said.

"When is it?"

About that time mom pipes in.

"It's today," she said. Well, at least she remembered. A little late, but hey.

So, anyway, birthdays I've come to expect nothing in recognition and have been rarely disappointed. And not to lay all the guilt on my folks, I've never got much in the way of recognition for birthdays or Father's Day from my daughter or her mom either. I was pretty sure they didn't even know when my birthday was.

This year, I got lots of pleasant surprises for my birthday. Some readers of this blog were kind enough to leave birthday wishes after I confessed my arrival at the big Four-Oh. I got three birthday cards from two different people (Brat sent me two. I'm not sure, but I think maybe she has a crush on me). I got birthday e-mails from one current coworker and two former coworkers. And to top it all off, I got a text message birthday wish from the guy that was my best friend from the time we were in grade school through being roommates in college, which completely blew me a way.

But that wasn't all. My daughter's mom sent me a text message wishing me a happy birthday, and my daughter did too (probably at her mother's urging, but I was thrilled none-the-less).

And when I got home from the concert, there was an e-mail in my mailbox from my mom, with birthday wishes from her and the rest of the family.

Yea, sometimes the people you love can rip your heart out without even trying. But sometimes they surprise you too.

Turning 40 may just have been the best birthday yet.

5 comments:

Brat said...

I am glad you had a good birthday! Ok, so I may have a very small, tiny even, crush on you.

Miki said...

Don't fret about birthdays, mine haven't been too great either. I too am turning 40, tomorrow, and yes, I too feel that my main contributions to this world are my children, two sons, aged 12 and 10, and a daughter, 4. The best birthdays that I remembr were the ones that my mom sent in homemade cupcakes to school. They were chocolate with lemon(homemade fromscratch) icing and brown happy faces on them. My mom wasn't a "stay at home" mom, odd and unusual for the 70's (early) but she made all of my clothes and still had time to make the cupcakes and icing for my day at school. After that, the BD has never felt special. So I am with you birthdays arent to fantastic, although as you do, I try to make it very VERY special for the kids. They choose what they want for dinner, I make it or we pick it up, what kind of cake homemade (boxed) or ice cream, and they pick a special present. Simple but effective. They don't dwell on a card, but they do feel special all day!
check out my blog: thoughtsofaramblingmiki.blogspot.com

Chick said...

Happy birthday!

I think you need a parade today...or a really big hug from your daughter...or someone else you love so much.

I hope you get all those things today.

3rdtimesacharm( 3T ) said...

Does this mean you're probably not ready to start claiming a Birthday WEEK? (I believe in a Birthday WEEK)

3T

PS. I'm thinkin' Brat DOES have a bit of a crush on you G-Man.
;-)

Jay said...

It's all uphill from 40 :)

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