He’s a fun person. He laughs, smiles, and seems to enjoy his life, but he does not celebrate birthdays. He has, begrudgingly over the years, learned to tolerate holidays. I celebrate Arbor Day. I believe birthdays are the most anticipated day of the year, and even after the celebrant has died, I still remember them. It’s an ideological difference we've been negotiating for over ten years. We've both had to sacrifice, we’re working it out.
As part of my acceptance, I have come to understand certain rules that might make the day more enjoyable for him. Primarily we are not allowed to ask, ever, what he might like for his birthday and we are not to expect overwhelming joy as his response at gift opening. He hails from a “what would you like’ kind of family, which has never suited him well. With his birthday coming less than one month after Christmas, this gift giving kindness has become a seemingly insurmountable burden. His mother once sent a brightly colored balloon bouquet to his bank office which may have been the year he formally announced his retirement from birthdays. Last year she sent a box of homemade cookies; he was genuinely thrilled.
With the arrival of children I warned him, he could no longer continue to be such a complete scrooge on his birthday, children expect more. They've been counting down all week, making presents and planning surprises. They started the day with shrieks of happy birthday and a special celebratory banana snowman shaped muffin. They have warned their teacher, please not too much homework tonight, it’s our dad’s birthday. They plan on being quite busy with all the festivities surrounding this wonderful day. If we were to leave Jack in charge, they would have time to finish their complete math workbook, complete the extra credit report on the Constitutional Convention and read the dictionary.
For their sake the newly minted old man will go out to dinner, eat cake and smile when they sing. He will open gifts, feign excitement and delight in playing with Bob the Talking Toilet Paper Roll Doll, "would you like an interest rate swap?"
And maybe next year, after this kind of wild fun, he might just offer a suggestion as to what he would like for his birthday.
Happy birthday Jack; tomorrow is a new day.