I like to experience my birthdays in a low-key fashion. No party, no celebration, just some quiet time at home. It took years to convince the wife that I really didn’t need a surprise party on my birthday (I’ve since found out that she does, so I dutifully attempt to plan one each year) it was just too unnerving, wondering when I was going to be ambushed. It’s been several years since the last party, and I haven’t missed it.
This year we went to Schlitterbahn for my birthday. How’s that for low-key? Well the kids loved it, and they are what is important to me these days.
So, I’m finally sitting at home enjoying my well earned quiet time, and the phone rings. It’s my mom. My mom, who is in California with her mom, on my birthday. Not here with me (not that it’s surprising, but the next part is) on my birthday, but in the even more distant (from Mom’s locus operandi, Albuquerque, New Mexico) She’s in Sacramento, California for her mom’s birthday. This is when I find out, for the first time, that my maternal Grandmother’s birthday is the day after mine. You’d think someone would have mentioned it in the intervening 40+ years, wouldn’t you?
Not if you knew my maternal Grandmother. This is the woman who was lovingly referred to as “The Wicked Witch of the West” for most of my childhood years. This is the woman who, when informed of the wife and my impending wedding plans said “I wouldn’t bother.” (If I was feeling generous I would hope she meant we should elope and save the wedding money, but I doubt that was the true motivation. It certainly didn’t come across that way.) The grandmother who doesn’t even know that she has great-grandchildren living in my house. The only reason I ever had kind words for her was because she was married to my sweet old Grandfather. Him I’d take time to talk to, or go out of my way to visit (it was on one of those visits when the wife earned the animosity of the rest of the family by putting the wicked witch in her place. It’s funny how family can be endlessly cruel to each other, but can’t abide it when it comes from the figurative outsider) but he’s been gone for several years now.
I do try to keep track of birthdays. I’m far from perfect about it, but I do try. Whether or not someone celebrates their birthday it remains an important day in a person’s life and I like to know when to pass on birthday wishes if I’m presented with an opportunity. Consequently I was a little surprised that I didn’t have Grandma’s birthday noted in my calendar even with the past relationship that we have had. This was a fact that I laughingly related to my mom, along with the fact that I didn’t even have contact information for her to append the birthday to, because I couldn’t imagine why I would ever need to talk to her.
My Mom’s response? “Well here she is, wish her a happy birthday!” I could hear my mental fabric ripping at that point. My side of the conversation went like this;
Hi, Grandma. Happy Birthday!”
“Yes, today is my birthday, and yours is tomorrow, isn’t that funny?”
“You didn’t know that today was my birthday?”
“Yes, I’m getting forgetful these days, too. Well, talk to you later.”
My mother calls me on my birthday so that I can wish a happy birthday to a relative that I mercifully have not thought of for years. A grandparent that hadn’t bothered to remember or mark the birthdays of the children of her only daughter. Ever. As in, she never called. She never sent gifts. She never uttered a peep or spent a cent on a birthday for me or my siblings, ever. That is how I will remember her, and I’m reminded of this fact on my birthday.
Thanks Mom. I think I’ll surprise her with a suitably equivalent gift next year. A car repossession, or perhaps an IRS audit. Something that reflects the thoughtfulness of the gift. From now on, on my birthday, I will be reminded that the WWW’s birthday is the very next day. Something to truly look forward to.
At least mom called. I guess.