Perhaps it is because I was born blue, refusing, without intervention, to breath, causing my poor mother to vomit into her own hair. Or maybe it was my father recanting, year after year, the story of the first time he saw me, slick with my mother’s blood and amniotic goo — a sight he was not prepared for back in the days when a father’s role was to pace and smoke in the waiting lounge, and only later, to be presented with a freshly bathed, powered and swaddled little product of his loins. At any rate, birthdays and I do not agree. I dread them. They seem predestined to follow one of three recurring themes, all ending, if not in horror, at the very least like a bad ‘date’ you never want to speak of or think about again.
Theme One: Illness
Whether it be tonsillitis, tooth ache, back spasms, or cancer, one will invariably land on, or linger through, my birthday roughly every three years. Top prize goes to my nephrectomy (removal of kidney) in 2005. To be fair, the surgery took place four days before my birthday, but the morphine-dazed hospitalization sailed right through it. It’s a blur.
Theme Two: Trouble in Paradise
This theme only occurs when I’m in a romantic relationship, or, as sometimes happens, wishing I were not. Ranging anywhere between a post-argument air of lingering, low-level hostility that hovers over the birthday dinner, to a full-blown, cataclysmic break-up, culminating in night of barbed text message, crying into the phone, until finally, swollen eyed and depleted, I fall into bed, hours before midnight. Top prize for this theme goes to my thirtieth, where not only did we have the explosive break-up, but the police had to be called in to remove the jerk, who was outside attempting to deflate all my tyres. Thankfully over the years, my attraction to high drama romances has diminished. Nonetheless, the uncomfortably silent dinners abide.
Theme Three: I am Forgotten
This is the one where every birthday seems to vaguely follow the plot of ‘Sixteen Candles’. It is also the most frequent of my recurring themes. They often start out innocently enough. Someone will remember it’s my birthday in the morning, but then, later in the day, forget all about it. In this instance, recalling all the earlier nose-dive birthdays, I tend to just shrug it off and not remind anyone. Classic example: my twenty-sixth, where it was decided the night before that I would meet my friend, Millie, for breakfast in the morning, then spend the evening knocking back free drinks at a row of dive bars near her house. It was not long after ordering my morning coffee that I knew Millie had forgotten. Over our plates of eggs over easy, hash browns and toast (ordered on separate checks – clue one), Millie regaled me with highlights from the night before, and her plans for her upcoming holiday in New York. She was to fly out in three days. Tight-lipped I listened, as she went over the details of her flights, what she would pack and all the sights she planned to see. Suddenly, she sat up straight, ‘Oh, I almost forgot…’ as she fiddled inside her handbag, producing a set of two keys and a note of some kind…. For a sliver of a second, I allowed myself to believe that it was all a wind up and my birthday festivities were about to begin. Instead, it was a list of instructions for feeding her cat and looking after her apartment — something I’d agreed to some weeks before, and of course, her spare keys for said apartment. At the counter, we paid our (separate) checks, I hugged her goodbye and wished her a fabulous time in New York. I did not remind her.
Today is my birthday. Early acknowledgements are in, so I know it’s not forgotten. I feel quite well today, so illness is not likely to mar the day. I am romantically involved … so there is that…. My plan so far is to take the dogs for a walk in the woods, do a bit of reading, a bit of writing, perhaps some photography, then brace myself for whatever the evening brings. Who knows? Could be grand. . .