The Year Without a Birthday Card

Tomorrow, I’ll celebrate my birthday – I’m turning 53.

No Birthday Cards This Year

It dawned on me yesterday that I had not received a birthday card. Then it sunk in that the people who sent me cards each year have opted out of my life this year – my wife, her mother, and a friend of hers who had always remembered me. None of those three people will want to show up for my birthday this year.

My mother used to send me birthday cards. Sometimes she would tuck money into them, even when I was grown. Her sign-off varied from “Love Mum” to “Your Mother” – I guess in case I thought someone else’s mother randomly sent me a card? My father is very ill, my brother and I have a strained relationship, and there is no other family.

Birthday Anxiety

To compound my disappointment, the crowdfund I set up to help feed the Fort Faulsey community cats is not going well. Another reason I want to get home soon is that the funding for their cat food is almost exhausted. I can’t accept actual bags of food right now. I worry that the person temporarily taking care of them is exhausting her time and resources. People have been so generous about supporting my legal aid crowdfund and it is hard to promote two at the same time.

I’ve blogged in the past about birthday anxiety and I thought processing it would lead to happier times. Never, ever did I think I’d be in this space one year later. I never realized how important those three birthday cards were to me. It wasn’t about the gifts, it was about the connection to people. Being part of a family, being remembered and celebrated. Other things I miss include the small wedding cake from Giant Eagle, the ‘birthday eve’ sushi ritual at Royal Myanmar, and birthday blueberry muffins.

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I miss my life. I want to move forward and I can’t until this current PFA situation is resolved fairly.

(Re)Discovering The First Birthday Card From My Wife

Earlier this summer, we cleaned out the attic – really half of the attic. Lots of scrubbing, sweeping, and organizing. Found many things. One in particular caught me off guard – the very first birthday card from my then-girlfriend who is now my wife. It was in the original envelope, just tucked amongst other papers.

I remember that birthday – October 22, 2003.We had been dating for three months. She sent flowers to my workplace and we went out to a fancy dinner to Mallorca on the South Side. She even stayed the night although she’d have to get up earlier to make it to work. It was very romantic and a vivid sweet memory. Finding the card brought so much back. I took it down to our bedroom and tucked it into my nightstand. For safe keeping, fully intending to open it again on this years birthday. I hope it is still there for me to find when I return home. Soon.

Moving Forward

While this may be a sad memory, I don’t regret it. I walked through twenty birthdays with a person I love. Some were good, others were tough. This one will be different, but spent with other people I love. I can’t predict where I’ll be next October, just hope it is somewhere safe and happy, that this year’s gratitude and sadness blend together more gently.

But for now, I’m grateful that Sarah is making me a homemade meal, that Elijah is baking a cake, that Josiah will drive me to Starbucks to use my birthday-only freebie. We’ll watch a screener of The Persian Version tonight for a blog review. I’ll watch When Harry Met Sally probably on Monday. I am safe, warm, included, and welcome.

Still, I am also sad and miss my life very much.

I miss my cats and I want to go home.

Collage of birthday photos
Birthday text


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