Thursday, March 16, 2023

An old woman ruminates on the occasion of a non-event

Our community
still requires
masks as of 3/23

On March 8 I celebrated my most unmemorable birthday ever. It was actually rather freeing not to be fussed over. But it might have been the only year in all eighty-three with no cake, no singing, no candles, no packages to open. Other than two very lovely floral arrangements (also a balloon and some delish frosted pretzels) received from offspring and a wonderful hour-long Zoom call with all four, it could have been just any old day ('old' being the operative word). 

It's my very first birthday living in a retirement community, and I wasn't surprised about the absence of a candled-birthday-cupcake. Live flame is forbidden in our apartments, so it stands to reason it's not happening in the dining room, either. And because this community doesn't host a common celebration for residents' birthdays or post anything on a common bulletin board, I didn't expect that everyone here would toast me, drink to my health, or remark on my alertness (ha ha) at eighty-three. But no one? Really? I was both tickled to have not let it slipped and miffed that I hadn't shared it with anyone.

When I mentioned to my kids that no one here even knew it was my birthday, one of my sons countered with "Mom, do you know any of their birthdays?" and I had to laugh. Of course not! That's about the last thing anyone in our age group mentions about themselves. After age seventy-five, or so, we're all in in the same age clump!

If there was anything disappointing about my "non-event," it was the absence of snail-mail cards. I did get some cards via U.S. mail--a couple were from friends, but most were from commercial relationships, like Starbucks, the symphony, my bank, my realtor, etc. And yes, I did receive several electronic cards and loving text messages from friends and granddaughters. Although I can't set them out on a counter or table top, they can stay on my phone as long as I want them to. I can read them over and over, and there's a lot to be said for that. 

It's the same for voice messages--and although I usually clean up voicemail every week, there are two I will not intentionally ever erase. Both are messages from my late husband, Jay. One is from 2013, almost exactly one year before he died. It's a message intended for me to hear before I started home from an errand I was running for us, warning me about a street blockage preventing access to our home. It's dear and thoughtful. I love listening to it sometimes when I'm missing him a lot. Hearing his voice makes him seem like he's in the same room with me.

The other voicemail is from the following year. We were on the last vacation together we would ever have, and he is calling me from our Key West hotel room. In the message he's annoyed because I'm not answering my phone. Exasperatedly he explains that now he'll have to put his shoes on and come downstairs find me somewhere in the lobby. Oddly, I also love listening to that one, too, especially when I'm feeling sorry for myself as a widow. It's grounding to hear it; sometimes he was annoyed with me and vice versa. Hearing the little scold in his voice is the perfect reality check. It can be all too easy to glorify our dearly departed ones, and that message brings me back into reality. Yes, our electronic age has lots of perks!




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