Today marks the 46th anniversary of my birth. What some would erroneously call my birthday – you are only born one time (although some people are apparently born-again, but I am not entirely sure what that means in this context). I awoke this morning at my customary time and, as happens when one has experienced over 40 of such days in a lifetime, the attendant excitement was less than palpable. It was mostly another day, albeit one with a few promised notable differences, not the least of which is cake.
But since I am no longer seven and do not anticipate any toys as presents that will make my already over-indulged lifestyle that much more so, I proceeded with my usual routine. I made the bed – perhaps I should have left this task for Melissa on my “special day” but I prefer to have accomplished something even before my morning toothbrushing – and then proceeded to not only scrub my teeth but to lather up with my $1.99 canister of Barbasol. As I prepared my nasal squeeze bottle for my post-shave sinus saline rinse – it really does help open up those nasal passages; I strongly recommend it – I allowed the shaving cream to “set up” my whiskers for their morning beheading. Yet for some inexplicable reason I managed to knick myself right at the intersection of my upper and lower lips. Admittedly, I sometimes have trouble in an adjacent facial zone on my upper lip where I have a freckle (it’s really a mole but I am embarrassed to admit that) that houses two immutable whiskers, which if left to their own devices irritate me. Hence I must often attack them from multiple angles, thereby risking – and usually fulfilling – a sliced upper lip. Today’s incision took place south-southeast of there, but it bled just as profusely. Not wanting to go around with a piece of tissue stuck to my face, I reached for my styptic pencil, a pre-1975 instrument of self-torture that does fortunately stem the tide of the blood. It just stings like hell. Even worse, it leaves a white film around the epicenter of the action that looks like I had been eating powdered doughnuts. But I had not. Not yet, anyway. (It is my birthday after all.)
All of this may seem trivial – and that is largely because it is. But when one is as superstitious as I am then such events seem to portend ill-tidings. And while I do come from a long, long line of superstitious people, nothing has made me more afraid of a kenahora that having cancer. I think this is reasonable, if not totally rational, because what drives superstition? The answer is the unknown and the inexplicable. And if cancer is not both of those, then I don’t know what is. So given that I had excised part of my upper lip and had to triage the damage all before I even got my deodorant on, I was highly concerned that this day would be one worth forgetting.
But forgetting a birthday in this day and age is simply not possible. Before I could even fully staunch the bleeding, I noted that I had several emails wishing me a happy birthday. Many of these emails came from some of my nearest and dearest friends and loved ones such as my insurance agent, my law school’s alumnae relations department, Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza, eight (yes, eight) from my sons’ little league and two airlines that I seldom fly. And while I am sure these automatically generated birthday messages are extremely heartfelt, not a single one offered me any special recognition or award for surviving yet another year. In fact, some – like the law school – thought that by wishing me a happy birthday I would be inclined to donate money to them. Those law school types really have a great sense of humor. Similarly, I received a warm birthday wish from a local blood bank. I suspect, however, that their feelings of goodwill towards me might be rather tempered when they realize, as Melissa once had to remind me when I foolishly volunteered to give blood after being diagnosed with blood cancer, that “No one wants your blood.” That’s fine with me. I am not a great sharer to begin with.
The most perplexing of all of these birthday wishes, however, has to be the one from Bing. I am not sure which is the worst part about Bing’s superficial good intentions: The fact that it went immediately to my junk folder or that I didn’t know what Bing was. In fact, I had to Google Bing, which is probably the most hurtful thing one can do to Bing. Sorry about that, Bing, but this is my day after all.
In addition to these commercial birthday wishes, I did happily receive quite a few from people that actually know more about me than my associated account or membership number. And although I often lament modern technology, I will readily endorse its use on the anniversary of one’s birth. For if not for Facebook postings and text messages wishing me a “great day,” which is actually putting a lot of pressure on me, I would be forced to spend most of my time on this day that is supposed to be about me on the phone with well-wishers who would ask me many questions for which I had no good answers. Questions such as, “What exciting things are you going to do today?” Answer: None. “Did you get any great presents?” Answer: No, I am no longer collecting Star Wars figures. “Are you going to celebrate tonight?” Answer: It’s Wednesday; don’t be ridiculous.
The one problem I have with Facebook birthday wishes is how they are presented: on your personal timeline. Timeline? How old do these people think I am? A timeline is for developments during the Industrial Revolution or seminal moments in modern spaceflight. I really don’t think graduating from a few schools, getting married and having a couple kids constitutes enough data for my own timeline.
When it all comes down to a “birthday,” however, I do have to be thankful. For it was just one year ago that I was staring down the beginning of months of chemotherapy. I was filled with apprehension and uncertainty about whether the chemo would work, how awful it might make me feel and the unknowns that were sure to accompany it. And although many of these long-term questions remain unanswered, at least I am here to still be contemplating them one year later. And with cake to boot.