I’m taking another break today from February’s Writing Prompts. Since my birthday is almost here, I thought I’d share one of my essays with you, which explains why I’m not always so keen to celebrate. I hope you enjoy the read…
Another Year, Another Birthday
Birthdays… The anniversary of one’s birth. A day to celebrate the day a person was brought into this world. A happy day. Or is it?
This isn’t an essay about bringing down the significance of a happy time. Although I am happy to celebrate the fact that every one of my friends and family have come into this world and into my life, my own birthday celebrations have been a struggle for me the past 25 years. I just don’t know whether to be happy or sad. So most times, I choose to treat it as just another day.
I would probably be out celebrating my own happy day just like most people do, and excited to be the recipient of so many wonderful well-wishes. But as my own birthday month draws near, I find myself flooded with a memory that is never pleasant for anyone to endure, even on a normal day. My Grandmother passed away on my 19th birthday.
I didn’t grow up living near most of my relatives, since my Dad was in the military, but we went to see the family whenever we could. I always enjoyed talking to my Grandmother. She was German, with that stubborn German personality, but a very kind and sweet woman. I wish I had gotten to know her better. Her name was Elfrieda Anna Carolina Tiemann. Tiemann was her maiden name. Better known to her friends as Geri. I don’t even know how she got that nickname. She was the organist at their church. She helped my Grandfather run his Optical business. I know where I got some of my musical talents and business savvy from!
The day we learned she had cancer was in January 1990. The whole family packed and headed out to Albuquerque so we could spend some time with her. It was a good time, but I don’t think any of us younger kids realized it was the last time we would see her. My Grandmother was always pretty quiet – it was her nature – but I noticed she seemed a little extra quiet while we were all there. I think she knew, and just sat there in quiet taking everything in.
When our visit was finished, she came to the airport with us to see us off. When she hugged me, she said, “Love you, Kiddo.” I didn’t stop to think until after I had gotten on the plane. But the realization hit. No one had ever said “I love you” in my family. Ever. We all knew it was implied and meant, but we just weren’t the family that threw that phrase out there. She had said it. That must have really meant something. I was sad that it took me too long to realize it, because I hadn’t reciprocated. I had just hugged her back and looked her in the eyes and smiled. The one thing I didn’t figure out at the time was that those were her last words to me.
So off we went back home and back to the everyday routine. Then on my birthday the next month in February, the call came in the afternoon…she had passed away. It was no longer a birthday celebration for me. We were devastated. Some of my friends from high school had come to the house to surprise me and wish me a happy birthday, not knowing what we had just learned. As they stood there with smiles and bouquets of flowers, all I could do was hug them and cry. As my dad was most devastated, he spent the evening in his bedroom alone. My mom did her best to put on a smile for me, pulled out my sugar-free pudding cake, had me blow out the candles and we ate in silence. It just wasn’t the birthday celebration it should have been.
The next year on my birthday, I didn’t want to celebrate. I woke up in the morning, and went about my day like any other. None of us in my family really talked to each other much that day. I even thought for a while that my parents didn’t remember that it was my birthday, as they were sad and remembering her. For a few minutes, I was almost feeling like Samantha Baker in the movie “Sixteen Candles”, except I was a bit older and not in high school anymore. My parents finally came around later in the day, but we all were thinking about the same thing…Grandma.
Since that day, it has never been about celebrating for me. I’d just as soon not. I’m another year older…so what? What was there to celebrate? Why celebrate coming into this world, when everyone else that you love is just being taken out of it, and in such a horrific way? I know she was in pain as she left this world, but she never let anyone know it until the end. I know I am alive and well and should be celebrating that, but it just hasn’t been the same after that day. Some of my friends know about this, some don’t. They still wish me a wonderful day regardless, and I am so appreciative. My parents have always done their best to be happy and make it a good day for me. My friends are also so generous with their wishes. I think birthdays are their celebration, not mine. You just won’t find me planning a fun day for myself.