Birthdays

Over the next month, my entire immediate family will celebrate birthdays. Diane, Max, me. In that order.

Diane and I don’t do much about birthdays most years for the simple reason that we just did Christmas and bought each other things then and because, when you’re in your 50’s, you’ve had enough birthday celebrations. It gets old.

Diane will want to get Max something for his birthday. But, of course, he won’t know it’s his birthday, he’s a cat. So it’ll be the same as any other time she buys him something. I’ll say this and we’ll joke about it and she’ll probably do something special for him anyway. Oh, why not.

But, generally, we don’t make much out of birthdays in our family. Nevertheless, there are some birthday memories from over the years…

I remember on the night of her 50th birthday as we were getting into bed, I – who had four more weeks to be 49 – said to my wife, “Fifty! I don’t know if I can go to bed with an old lady like you.” Turns out, I couldn’t. Just kidding, Diane has a good sense of humor, she laughed.

When I was in elementary school, my mother had a big birthday party for me one year. Must have been first or second grade. She invited every boy in my class to the party – even the ones I didn’t like. She was in the P.T.A in those days and I think she was trying to make an impression on the school social scene. She also invited boys and girls from the neighborhood. About 25 to 30 kids. It was a madhouse! My ears still ring from the memory of how loud it was.

Back in the day, we would sometimes do something special for a birthday. Diane has thrown surprise parties for me a couple times. Once was when we lived in Worcester. I was doing midday news at WFTQ and Diane had worked it out so our morning news guy, John Barba, invited me out for a couple of beers after work to celebrate my birthday. It was a Friday night, John and I were buddies, so there was nothing unusual about his invitation. Out, we went.

We headed over to a favorite watering hole, The Boynton Cafe. After the second round, John says, “Let me give the birthday boy a lift home.” This was part of the plan to give everybody time to get from work to my apartment and get ready to surprise me. But I said, “Hey, let’s get a pizza.” The Boynton’s pizza was a favorite at the time. “Okay, sure,” John said. He didn’t know what else to say. I put the order in and John said, “I gotta make a phone call,” and headed back to the pay phone. He called Diane and explained the situation. She says something like, “We’re ready, so get him over here as soon as you can.”

We have the pizza and a couple more rounds. The Boynton had those smaller, “personal” pizzas, so we finished it off rather quickly. “Let’s get another one,” I say and immediately motion the waitress to bring another pizza and another round of beers. John is stunned. He has completely lost control of the situation. He excuses himself to make another call.

Finally, after we finish the second pizza, John says, “We’ll, I really got to get home.” So he drives us to my place to drop me off, makes an excuse to come inside and we go in and thirty people shout, “Surprise!” I realize right away that I had just screwed up the plan and everybody’s been waiting for us for a couple of hours. And I see Diane giving John a dirty look for not getting me there in a more timely fashion and I see John throwing up his arms in frustration. And I burst out laughing. I’ve had several beers by now so it’s even funnier and John has had several too and now, dirty look from Diane or not, he starts laughing. Then Diane starts laughing. The whole houseful of people is laughing.

For my 50th birthday, my mother wanted to throw me a party. She was suffering from Alzheimer’s and this party meant a lot to her. I hadn’t had a birthday party in years and I doubt I would have had one for the 50th, if it wasn’t her idea. She invited relatives from her generation and mine. It was like a family birthday from when I was a kid. We had fun, my mother was so happy. That was the last time I saw her that she knew who I was. I’m very glad we had that party. Good idea, Ma.

To my immediate family, in this special month, Happy Birthday to all…and to all a good night.

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