Bless Andrea Degenhart’s heart. Every year she wishes me a happy birthday in her column.
You would think that all of us at the Republic-Times are one big happy family who know each other really well. However, I’ve never met Andrea in person. I don’t hang out at the office. I know some of the folks there, but usually only talk over the phone or correspond with them via email.
Last year, Andrea wrote that I was the R-T’s “beloved” columnist. I had never been called “beloved” before, and it did wonders for my inflated ego. This year, she simply called me the “R-T columnist.” A much easier title to live up to. Good for you, Andrea.
After news of my birthday reaches the mass readership of the R-T, I am inundated with birthday greetings. Well, not really. I have received a couple of cards and I have gotten some nice emails.
Usually, I run into folks at the gas station or grocery store and they happen to recognize me from my column photo or maybe a theater production they’ve seen. “Hey, heard it was your birthday. How did you spend it?”
It occurred to me some people go all out for their birthdays. Some of my buddies have had their wives take them on trips. One of my high school friends called me once and told me his wife bought him a jeep for his 30th birthday. I’ve heard all kinds of stories. Am I envious? Well, I’d be lying to you if I said no.
Now don’t get me wrong, we’ve taken nice vacations and we have nice things. No one in my house is starving. We wear nice clothes. God provides for us. We have an overabundance of “things.”
But Michelle and I have never spent a bunch of money on birthdays. Maybe someday I will “wow” her with jewelry or whisk her off on a trip. Maybe she will buy me that classic old car I’ve always wanted. Dreams, dreams.
As I was thinking about all this, I went back to my birthday a few days back. I started to think how some folks might think it was just another day. A subject for a rather boring column. Yet to me, it was something else.
I woke up to the baby climbing onto my chest, bouncing up and down and saying “Happy Birthday Dada.” She continued to inform me it was my birthday and then exclaimed “Look! Look!” as her mother came through the door.
The baby had just turned 2 a few days before and each day with her is a new discovery. Sentences become longer. More things are noticed. It’s all so much fun.
Michelle was already up and working to make my day special. She’d been to the bakery and now walked into the room with a criss-crossed tower of iced long johns on a plate. On top was a single, solitary candle.
She also brought me the forbidden Diet Mountain Dew — a drink I love yet have been trying to stop drinking since it was invented. Before that, it was Diet Coke and Pepsi. One day, I hope to succeed.
I blew out the candle with the help of the baby, and then drank some of the soda with my morning coffee. I also had two of the long johns (yes, two. It was my birthday, you see. Don’t judge me). It might sound mundane. But to me, sipping the taboo soda with my breakfast was the height of decadence.
The other three kids were up soon. My oldest was heading to Haiti the next day on his second mission trip out of the country. My next oldest is growing taller with his voice deepening each day. Both are young men I am extremely proud of.
My beautiful older daughter, looking more like her mother every day and becoming a young lady before my eyes, is such a blessing to us all.
They all joined in the celebration and made the donut tower disappear before I could have a third.
I always get something nice for my birthday from my mother, who always seems to give us all way too much anyway. She is a generous soul.
My mother-in-law and faher-in-law always bring over my annual peach pie and a nice gift card tucked into a card that always thanks me for taking their daughter off their hands.
But this year, aside from their nice gifts, I couldn’t think of anything I especially wanted and really couldn’t think of anything I needed that much. I mean, heck, when I need something bad enough, we usually go out and get it. Within reason, of course.
So I decided I would take the whole family out to a movie. We spent the day at Chesterfield Mall. We watched “Despicable Me II” and shared good belly laughs (I love those little minion guys). Everyone ate whatever they wanted for lunch at the café court. We rode the carousel (baby’s first ride) and had ice cream (did you know Dairy Queen is in the mall, too?).
No, 46 is not a banner year. I had not expected to do anything particularly special this year. We dropped a pretty good chunk of change at the mall, but we didn’t go to Hawaii or purchase a new Jeep. There was no big party.
But, I must tell you, it is a birthday I will never forget. It is etched in my mind. My children are growing, reaching milestones, and amazing me every day. My wife continues to support me and our love and friendship grows with each passing year.
Ordinary days are relished and savored, and I am thankful for them. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the beginning of my 46th year.