by Susan Ideus
7:30 AM, sitting at my desk…Found flowers on my desk with a birthday card from my boss, who flew to California earlier this morning. Sigh, he doesn’t know I’d prefer to skip celebrating. Ever since our first baby girl was stillborn on my birthday, what had been a day of festivities had turned to one of silent remembrance of grief. It had been a long time, and while the pain was no longer fresh, the day had lost its joy. My family knew it was a low-key day for me.
8:30 AM, my phone rings…”Hi Mom!” It was my then 13-year old daughter Johanna. “Just wanted to wish you a Happy Birthday.” “Thanks, sweet girl.” Long pause…”Uh, Mom, I know this is a bittersweet day for you, since Amy died.” (Imagine, my little girl was growing up and recognizing big emotions–big lump in throat.) “But, Mom, we’re glad it’s your birthday. If you hadn’t had a birthday, we wouldn’t have you, ya know?” We won’t ever forget Amy but can’t we celebrate you? We’re happy we have you.” Whoa…that lump in my throat just dissolved–into tears. “So, Mom, Dad and I are taking you out to dinner tonight, and then tomorrow when Becca comes home, we’re going over to Gram’s to celebrate with Uncle Jim (my twin). I want you to be glad it’s your birthday too. OK, that’s all; I have to go to catch the bus now. Later! Love ya!” Just like that, she was gone, leaving her mom with a lot to think about. My husband Harold and I had always made a big deal of the girls’ birthdays, and the girls and I went all out for Harold’s day. But I’d made it clear I wanted to be the exception to the family rituals. Was that fair? Had I, in my private grief, deprived my girls of showing their love openly? I knew Harold had always managed to keep the day quiet, but in truth, I had sensed that it bothered him too. They tried to celebrate but I just wasn’t always there. Well, it was time to change. Johanna was right. Amy would never be forgotten. She was a part of us. Had she lived, she would have been a part of all of our celebrations. And, here I was, taking that away from the two beautiful girls who had been blessing my life for all these years. No more!
Fast forward to now. I’ve had more than a few birthdays since Johanna called me that morning. She and Becca are lovely young women now. We aren’t all in the same place any longer and we don’t always get to celebrate our birthdays together. We’ve had some great birthday parties and made some wonderful memories since then, and I’ve felt so treasured on “my day.” As my birthday dawned today, I knew I would be surrounded by their love and that they would be making sure their mom was celebrating.
Susan lives in Las Cruces, NM with husband of 42 years, Harold, and she is newly and happily retired. She spends her time reading, writing, cooking and crafting. She is an editor for StoryCircleBook Reviews and a member of the SCN Publications Committee. She blogs at Being Me: Beliefs, Blessings and Blunders.