It’s my birthday, but my birthday just isn’t the same any more.
It’s not that I’m getting old and grumpy about the birthdays piling up. (In fact, I wouldn’t trade my years of experience for anything!)
It’s not even that I’ve lost my childhood enthusiasm for birthdays. (I most definitely haven’t!)
It’s that my birthday is now lonely.
You see, I was born on my grandfather’s birthday. It was a special bond that we shared. Almost every year of my childhood, we celebrated together. We opened gifts together. We blew out candles together. We made all kinds of mischief together. It was our day to share.
Once, when I was six or seven years old, he teased me by saying I had “stolen” his birthday. I tearfully offered to give it back and pick a different birthday. He laughed with that familiar twinkle in his eye, gave me a big hug, and said he couldn’t be happier to share his birthday with me. It was our day to share.
As I got older and went off to college, we still celebrated together. He always called me on the morning of January 31 with my grandmother on the other phone. We sang “Happy Birthday” to each other, always ending in a fit of giggles. It was still our day to share.
But not any more.
My grandfather passed away suddenly in 2007. He was so healthy, so full of life, and yet his death was so quick and unexpected that none of us had a chance to say goodbye.
That first birthday after his death was tough. Instead of him calling me that morning, it was my grandmother, alone. She still sang to me, but I could feel the pain of her loss as she did. My heart broke for her. I felt lonely on my birthday, but I knew she was lonely every day. It was impossible to celebrate that year.
It’s gotten a little better. Time does heal wounds.
The sadness of losing him eases a little with each passing year, but my birthday never fails to dredge up a jumble of emotions and memories. There always seems to be a damper on the celebrations.
But not this year.
This year, for the first time, my three-year-old daughter is “super excited” about my birthday. She’s been counting down the days for weeks. (She even wanted to make an advent-type calendar for the countdown!) How can I feel lonely when I’m surrounded by an amazing family just itching to celebrate?
Yes, the days of sharing my birthday with my grandfather are gone, but I remind myself of how lucky I was to have that bond in the first place.
So this year, I will celebrate with my own family and begin a new tradition: telling the kids the stories of the birthdays I shared with my grandfather. I think I’ll begin with the year he convinced me a pair of underwear was really a birthday hat. Yeah, we took turns wearing the “hat” and posing for pictures. (In my defense, I was only six!) My daughter will surely get a kick out of that story.
Grandpop, if you’re watching, I hope it makes you smile.Photo Credit: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net