With a few notable exceptions, my birthday has been pretty low-key. This has been just fine with me. I view my birthday as my personal holiday (everyone deserves to be celebrated a little), and I try to spend it with my family, reflecting on the best gifts I could ever have – the life my parents gave me and the friends and family who have made it amazing.
Other than “getting older,” there has been one birthday constant over the years – and that is my grandmas. Every year, without exception, my grandmas always remembered my birthday. This, along with my mom singing to me, was basically the highlight of my year. Right on time, I’d receive one card from each grandma in their signature handwriting, one smooth and one shaky. Both knowing I enjoy flashy cards and joyful sentiments, there would be ladybugs, flowers, or glittery unicorns riding rainbows. One was to “Emmy” and one to “Emily” – and they always made me smile.
For most of my life, I saw my mom’s mom just before my birthday every year because we’d be together for Thanksgiving. When I was young and we were at her house, there’d be a brief birthday celebration, separate from Thanksgiving. Everyone would sing while the candles flickered on the cake. I loved that.
Last year, my dad’s mom was scheduled to have surgery for a serious issue on my birthday. The evening before, I got this email: “Thought I’d send your birthday wish a little early….seems like I’ll be preoccupied tomorrow 🙂 Have a very happy, fun birthday!” She knew there was a good chance she wouldn’t make it out of that surgery, but she took the time to let me know she remembered, and didn’t bother with anything sad. And I knew she did want me to have a good day and be happy. She passed away twelve days later.
I know a lot of people would tell a sad story at this point – about the day not being the same anymore or something. But why? My grandma understood mortality; we talked about it. She didn’t think it was healthy to deny it. So for me, this birthday is the same. I won’t get a rainbow unicorn or dancing flowers card from her, but I know she’d be thinking about me if she could. And that’s enough. And I have a grandma who will be. I know it.
So, I’m turning 40. It happens – if you’re fortunate anyway. And this year, it’s for my grandmas.
P.S. Mom, thanks for having me.
Cheers – E