I celebrated my birthday recently. And the Universe made sure to show me, once again, its sense of humor.
I awoke that day with plans for treating myself. Not in the way I used to, with lots of friends and loud celebration. I was going to work the first part of the day and then slip into a quiet movie theater. Midday solo movies are balm for the soul, people. They got me through my mother’s brief illness and hospice stay. I think doctors should be allowed to prescribe them for patients going through a hard time—a get-out-of-work pass once a week for a little afternoon escape from your own reality and into someone else’s on the silver screen.
I was to finish the day with my sons enjoying a steak dinner.
It sounded quiet and lovely to me—just how I wanted to pass this birthday.
But the Universe had other things in mind for me.
I began my day buying something I forgot we ran out of, only to forget what the item was when I got to the store (the Universe’s first little wink/wink, nudge/nudge on advancing one more year into middle age). As I paid for my item, I glanced at the conveyor belt. The woman behind me, probably about 15 years my senior, was buying Poise pads (for bladder control issues) and vodka. I’m not sure if the latter was because of the former or a contributing cause, but either way, I told the Universe its sense of humor was duly noted and not appreciated.
As I worked to meet a deadline before heading to my movie, one sneeze brought the whole house of cards down. I felt a snap in my ribs and then quite a bit of pain. I’ve had two children, mind you. It was not quite that much pain, but enough that I found it hard to breathe in without tearing up. I can still go to the movie, I thought. It’ll pass. Shake it off, sweetie. Halfway there, I turned around and headed to the doctor’s office.
I spent the next several hours being poked, prodded and x-rayed, only to find out I’d sprained an intercostal muscle under my ribs. “How did you do this?” my doctor asked. I was tempted to puff up my chest (if only it didn’t hurt so much) and tell him I was in an aerial acrobatics class or hang gliding. “I sneezed,” I mumbled, hoping he would not ask me to repeat myself. “Ah, well, bronchitis will strain these muscles. That’s probably why this happened,” he said. Did I mention he is my age? He smiled knowingly. And then wished me a happy birthday.
As I headed back into the grocery store for the item I forgot the first time (wine), I bought it and they didn’t card me, despite the 40 and under sign. Ouch. First time.
I thought back to the day before, when two good friends took me downtown for a musical and a wonderful dinner. As we rode the train, three women who looked about 20 years older than us were exiting at the same stop. “Are you going to see a show?” one asked. We told her we were and she waxed rhapsodic about how much she loves going to shows with her friends. I loved the sentiment but as I took in her steel-gray sausage curls, large frame and orthopedic shoes, I felt a shiver down my spine. The Ghost of Birthdays Future? My friend Gail reassured me. “We may still be going to shows in 15 years but we won’t look like that.”
I finished my day with my two sons and a lovely steak dinner. Other than having to breathe shallowly so as not to hurt and deciding between one glass of wine or a painkiller later (the wine won), we were having a good time.
As we discussed some historic military event that involved Dwight D. Eisenhower, my son—a history buff—gave me all the details on it. I smiled with pride at his knowledge. Which is when he said: “Mom, who did he run against for president? You voted in that election, right?”
No, dear. I was not even close to born yet. However, I know a couple of women that were. One pairs Poise with vodka. The other is wearing orthopedic shoes and needs a good blowout.
Not me. Yet. Hopefully not ever.
But I applied some lipstick and fluffed my hair, just to be safe.
Next year, Universe, a simple Happy Birthday will do.