Monday, August 12, 2013

A Very Merry UnBirthday.

Remember City Slickers? That moment when Billy Crystal is jarred out of a peaceful sleep on the eve of his last year before the point of no return otherwise known as the forties? That moment when the phone rings and he picks it up to hear his mother’s quintessential New York accent comes through the phone to recount in detail his birth story?

Thank God my mother doesn’t do this.

My parents made birthdays wonderful events as a child. My husband focused almost exclusively on the gifting. My children are too young to notice what’s supposed to be mom’s special day unless someone spoon feeds it to them, and a birthday celebration has now devolved to virtual wishes of good health and good fortune. My friends are too busy with their own lives and, after five years of purposefully avoiding my birthday, it is an awkward request to ask them to take time out to celebrate the fact that I have lost another year.

Happy un-birthday to me.

I have done the spa thing. I have done the night away thing. I have done the fun-with-the-kids family thing. I have done the stay-so-busy-maybe-you-won’t-notice thing. I have done the slow-down-and-breathe thing. I have done-the-night-away-with-friends thing.

No matter what I’ve done to celebrate, I’ve not been able to shake the lingering irritation that all I really want is someone who cares that it’s my day.

(Unless, Gerard Butler is giving out foot rubs. In which case I want those, too.)

And yet this birthday feels different than the four that came before. I spent my birthday running frantic for others, an exhausting week-long gauntlet that set me further back on the sleep deprivation scale and ensured that the week ahead will be nothing if not an unorganized shambles.  

But amidst the hustle two bright sparks reminded me that one day is simply, one day.

Three years ago, my birthday became the day my brother lost his best friend. Each year, he has marked the day in memory and celebration, refusing to look at the end as an end. This year, a friend raced across the sky with an unbridled passion for life that we celebrate in envious fashion.

And this year, I chose to answer the phone instead of ignoring it as I sunk into a sea of my own tears and slipped through the keyhole into another year.

Now blow the candle out my dear,
And make your wish come true.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Pricks and Needles.

“You know, every year I like you a little less.”

“That’s funny. Every year, I like you a little more.”

Really, they should do something about the ceilings, given their relative importance. Mirrors and elegant photography grace the walls, classic woven baskets have replaced clinical trash bins and Kelly Clarkson is piping through the halls.

And a sea of clinically white ceiling panels that I have been staring at for the last half hour.

It’s like déjà vu, all over again.

How I ended up on a schedule that aligned my birthday with that annual pilgrimage into the stirrups that all women dread, I do not know. But here I am once again celebrating the passing of another year, feet up high and covered in a flimsy paper sheet and a gown that covers absolutely nothing. I don’t even know why I bother, considering that my right breast stubbornly refuses to stay tucked away and I’m so cold my nipples could cut glass.

I genuinely like my doctor, I really do. She’s my age, understands what it is like to have a daughter that makes the Godfather look like a bedtime story, and balances the demands of a career against the desire for normalcy and motherhood. She’s watched me go from top to bottom and top again, and all along the way I have never felt judged or ashamed of my frailties.

But the last three visits have sent me home with deep sea diving expeditions that required sedation, stitches, hours suffering the effects of a not-to-be-taken-lightly concoction with the innocuous name “GoLytely” and a series of uncomfortable follow up visits. I’ve been poked, prodded, pried, pricked and probed.

None of it according to my specifications.

“Any issues?”

“Define issues … ?”

I have plenty of issues. But how I answer this is important because there are issues and then there are issues. And then there are issues that send me off to have my bowels excavated. Or issues that cause a fistful of stitches in Mommy’s happy place.

“Any lumps?”

Yes. None of which I am happy about. Metal clinks and wrappers crackle and the light burning a hole in my nether regions is finally and thankfully whisked away, only to be replaced by a less-than-gentle indignity and inspection.

“You know, that is far less enjoyable coming from you.”

And with that, the tires have been rotated, the oil has been checked and the motor has been revved. My resale value remains, I am told, quite high.

But just in case, she’s arranged for a little gift. Another interlude in Brumhilda’s body squishing torture chamber and enough lab work to feed the cast of True Blood for an entire year.

“Happy Birthday!”

Only if I close my eyes and pretend that you are Gerard Butler.