At 4:53 a.m., our little puppy alarm clock named Diesel went off. I awoke wedged between our two children and had to scooch down off the bottom of the bed to avoid waking them up. You were not in the bed, which made me smile. Your absence meant that you slept in one of our children’s bedrooms, which meant that you probably got a whole night’s rest.
After the animals were fed and the kitchen was tidied up, I started baking your birthday cake. The request was a yellow cake with chocolate frosting, and I was determined to complete it before anyone woke up.
The mornings have a course that starts calmly, like a trickling stream that gradually builds. By sunrise, the day was flowing, and the current was getting stronger. Once the kids were awake, the damn was creaking, and within a few minutes, our home was engulfed in the delightful chaos that comes with little footsteps and tiny fingerprints.
By 7 a.m., it was clear the best birthday present I could give you was some quiet time, so I took the kids to Target in search of a birthday present for Daddy. After an hour of careful shopping with thoughtful inquiries on what Daddy needs for a gift, our beautiful, thoughtful, and compassionate kids filled the cart with four cans of soda pop, three Asian pears, socks, Legos, and a dinosaur for your presents. They made convincing arguments on why Legos and Dinosaurs made good gifts; it is so you can play with them together. I was so moved by this argument that I put a new crock pot in the cart. I look forward to using it later with you.
We stopped to get you a coffee, and then we headed home. Ninety minutes of kid-free time for you was the desired result of our escapade, and in that regard, we were successful. The current was building within a few minutes of arriving home, and chaos was imminent.
For breakfast, fried egg sandwiches, strawberries, and orange juice made you happy. At one point, you said if nothing else happens today, that the egg sandwich was enough to make your day special. That made me smile. I like watching you eat.
There was some brief conversation before the candles on your birthday cake were lit, explaining to our six-year-old why he couldn’t blow out your candles, and then we sang. We sang with our hearts. We made up for what we lacked in talent by increasing the volume. You smiled. This made me smile. I love your smile.
You paused before you blew out your candles. You closed your eyes, and you paused. I don’t know what you wished for, but I felt its power. Then you blew out the candles as our son lunged forward to shove his new dinosaur into the cake.
We ate cake, and you opened presents. You liked the book, mug, and blanket I got you. I knew you would. You needed a new blanket. Your affinity for old blankets is amusing to me. While it’s endearing to watch you try and cover up in the recliner with a blanket full of holes and bad decisions, it’s time to let go of the old. It’s time for a blanket that covers all of you in warmth and security. You deserve it.
You played Legos with our daughter and shared your cake with our son’s dinosaur. You laughed, and you were present with our children. There was laughter, smiles, and dinosaur roars, all more musical than our happy birthday rendition.
Once the cake was demolished, our kids turned into sugar goblins. Like any responsible parent, we then quickly sent them off to school. The whirlwind of morning was coming to a halt. The kitchen and dining room mess was overwhelming when I came home from the bus stop. But then I thought, what a good problem to have. We had so much fun, and it’s still early. So, I cleaned up, and I smiled.
Historically, birthdays are a time of reflection for me. Time passes with or without our permission, so to have markers in time to celebrate brings peace to the unending march of time itself. But today, I don’t want to look backward, I want to look forward with you at my side.
There will be a day when we will miss the chaos, the mess, and the sugar meltdowns. But when this day comes, I want you to remember that we belong to each other. Our union blessed us with children, but it does not define us. When life makes space for us, and we find ourselves still with doubt or grief for days passed, let us remember to live a lifetime each day.
In forty years, you will be eighty. We’ll have a big party in the party room at the senior center. I’ll make a yellow cake with chocolate frosting, which I doubt either of us will have the stomach for, and I will smile.
I will smile for the here and now, and I will smile for the yesterdays. I will smile for the days to come and for our children’s future. I will smile because all those years ago, fate crossed paths with us next to a river, and time stopped just long enough for our souls to introduce themselves. I will smile for the life we have together. I will smile because I love you.
Happy Birthday, my dear husband. May this be the best year yet. Here’s to forty more years at your side!