Tomorrow, actually. This is a big birthday--not for me so much as for my kid who was born on my birthday, twenty-one years ago. Here's what I always say about my kid and by god it NEVER GETS OLD** because it never is untrue: He was the best present I ever got and the hardest to unwrap.
I remember holding my little dumpling, that tiny wonton, in the hospital thinking, "when he's a grown-up, at 21, I'll be so old."
I was wrong about two things: he's not a grown up and I'm not old. Old is about 15 years older than I am at this moment and that has been true since I hit 15 or so and felt like an adult.
So this is a big birthday for the kid and the first birthday we're not going to bug him or even see him--I imagine because he plans to get skunked. He requested we not join him for the big day...not in a rude way. Actually he was extremely polite about it, as is proper for a (near) adult.
It's a long shot from the days when we used to celebrate our joint birthday at McDonalds and I felt just a teeny bit sorry for myself for forfeiting my birthday to someone else -- but mostly I felt grownup because I really did feel like he got to get that day and I cheerfully made a cake for him with only his name on it (it helped that my friend would often make me my own birthday cake).
I tried to tell my kid about my dad's big birthday rule. When my father was dealing with infants late at night, he promised each and every bundle of joy that he was going to show up on their 21st birthday and keep them up all damn night, just like they were doing to him, dammit. NO MATTER WHERE THOSE BABIES ENDED UP, HE WAS GOING TO TRACK THEM DOWN. (He had a few kids with colic) I think he had to travel for all of us.
I know he got the oldest of us, my brother, but I'm not sure where--probably Georgia (Dad lived in DC). He went all the way to England to bug my sister, but I don't think he went to Japan to bug my younger brother. He made it all the way to Boston to annoy me and by God, he did. He got drunk and sentimental and embarrassing and then kissed me. PeeeEeewww And then I went home and he went to his hotel so it wasn't all night long. It wasn't horrible, okay? I recovered from the kiss. I'm still trying to figure out how to cope with the sentimentality and phobias I inherited from him -- and resent.
He was a good dad in a lot of ways, don't get me wrong. I could have done without that birthday thing. Anyway, hardly matters now because the dad is gone, the tradition is gone and I'm leaving my own #1 bundle of joy alone this year. But of course I'll be thinking about him and my dad and feeling sappy tomorrow.
I don't think Dad made it for those last two kids of his. That's a real shame.
** I do not vouch for my kids' response on that one. They are probably as sick of me saying that as they are of their father saying ".... and that's why you never get hungry at the beach."