Well folks, it happened! I turned thirty-something for the very last time. April the 9th, the day that made me who I am. Seriously, so much of me has been entwined in the particular day on which I was born. I was expected in May, but that would have made me a Taurus. Not that I’m all hung up on Astrology, but I am slightly entertained by it. I could never be a Taurus because they are practical and they like regularity. I was meant to be an Aries…. the Ram is fiery, bossy, determined, and, well, they can’t be wrong. Yeah, that’s more me. Always right! (Or so I think….)
It’s not really the Zodiac of it that made April the 9th my special day. It was the man who came before me. I know, every year I write a sappy story about the grandfather that was born 40 years before me on that day, but I can’t help myself. He was the most special person I ever knew, and even though it’s been eleven years that I have faced our birthday alone, the twenty-seven we shared are still some of the brightest beacons shining through my mess hall of memories. I was pretty proud of myself yesterday. I didn’t have my annual session of tears falling. I smiled instead at all the stories floating around in my head.
Of course now, as I think of which ones to type, those dang tears have caught up to me. Grandfathers are truly special. They are magical mystical creatures who can turn a trip to the bank into an adventure financed by the quarters he’s somehow pulled from behind the ears of a small child. They have endless answers for life’s questions and they leave behind the words to live by. At least my grandfather did. He filled my head with riddles and jokes and laughter and advice. I don’t know how many times I have stopped myself and said “What would Softy tell you right now?!”
I always think of the time he drove to Rockdale. He said he needed my help buying a new computer, and that he would appreciate the use of my employee discount at the Dell Outlet Store. It was a 10% discount. This man took a 2 1/2 hour drive to pick me up, where we drove another hour to the outlet store, so he could save $75? I’m sure the gas and lunch he bought cost twice that, and I’m sure any kid at Best Buy could have matched my computer expertise, but there he was, making excuses to spend the day with me. I miss that. With all my heart, I wish we had just one more excuse to sit at the same table.
I guess time can be so cruel. We get so busy trying to make the ends meet. We spend our days caught up in the rat race and then we take a blow like the blow I took the day he passed away, and we swear we’re going to slow down. We are going to call everyone we love a little more often and we’re going to have picnics in the park and we’re going to quit taking life for granted and we hold true to that for a little while, and then the race just sucks us in again. I’m not sure how that happens.
A few years ago I almost lost my father, and suddenly, I made sure to show him how much he meant to me. I took the time to make the phone calls or to help him around the house or to send him a message here and there. I made sure I was invested in our relationship, and for that I am truly grateful. But I didn’t take the time to consider all my relationships to be just as valuable. I’ve spent the past several months thinking a lot about my step-father. There were so many good and bad moments between us. We had a complicated relationship. Sometimes we really struggled to communicate. I think some of that is because we both like to be the boss, and there can’t be two captains on a ship. Some of it was because there were unhealed hurts of the past lingering. I should not have let them linger. I see the way my children loved him so unconditionally, and the way they miss him, and I am so stricken by the importance he held as their grandfather. And then a day like my birthday comes along, and the phone doesn’t ring, and my heart breaks just a little more. That stubborn old man that I butted heads with so many times called me every year on my birthday. I used to think my mother must have put him up to it, but no, he remembered my day all by himself. And after my grandfather passed, my step-dad took the time to honor that special birthday connection I was missing for just a moment each year.
Oh gosh, I think about that and I can’t stop this flood of tears!
My parents brought me an “old lady survival kit” for my birthday. Thank goodness it has some facial scrub in it, because I’m about to have to hit the sink to erase the evidence of this mini-meltdown.
Some people say 40 is when you hit the changes in life, but I’m starting 39, and I think I’ve got most of it down already.
Here’s what I know: This journey is short. The goal of perfection is unattainable. Family trees are twisted all sorts of ways, but every branch is important. Forgiveness is all we need to move forward and birthdays are to be celebrated no matter what! I had about 110 happy birthday messages on Facebook, but my favorite one said “I hope your family honored you today” and they did. Someone took me out for breakfast and someone else took me to lunch and somebody drove my princess to softball practice and somebody did her best to bake a cake! It was a mellow peaceful day where nobody said anything about the unfinished laundry and the hubby cooked Sloppy Joes for supper while I played with my grand-baby. What could be better than that?
Yep, I’m on to the next phase in life. I’m a grandma, and I just might know how to get those quarters out from behind a little ear!! But I’ll have to wait until she stops putting everything in her mouth to start finding those coins….
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