Happy Birthday to Me

My birthday is coming up soon, and my boss reminded me of that fact a few days ago. Birthday reminders of clients and employees pop up on his calendar, and he had noticed mine coming up. I just kind of crinkled my nose and went back to working. I’m sure he thought my response to that reminder was very underwhelming.

I like my boss. He’s a good guy. He’s generous and nice to me. That’s important to me as a general rule, but especially important in the workplace since I spend nearly as much waking time at work with him during the week as I do at home with my family. He’s really busy, always has a million things on his mind, and so we don’t chitchat a whole lot about personal things. That’s okay. I would really rather not talk about myself or my life, anyway. The point here is that I’ve never said anything to him about Jason or the death of a child. As a result, I’m sure he thought my reaction to his birthday reminder was a typical female-not-wanting-to-get-older thing.

It got me thinking about what I would say if he commented about my reaction to my birthday. Do I just minimize my reaction and let him think that I just don’t want to get any older? Or do I tell him the truth – that I would really rather skip over my birthday and most “holidays” entirely because of Jason’s death? What exactly would I say? Mentioning the death of a child can really make things awkward. Do I say something or let him be comfortable in his lack of knowledge about Jason? What if the topic of how many children I have or something of the like comes up some other time or way? I guess I just need to process this in case the topic of my birthday and lack of enthusiasm about it comes up again before the actual day.

I’ve always loved holidays and everything that goes along with them – birthdays, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, 4th of July. Making Halloween costumes, planning birthday parties, getting ready to host the 4th of July at our house, baking cinnamon rolls for Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas morning. You name it. I loved it all with a passion.

I loved shopping for stuff for Easter baskets for the kids. I’d keep my eyes open for weeks before Easter for cute stuffed animals and unique things I could buy. One year I got each of them a bottle of sparking cider for their baskets. My husband kind of scratched his head on that one, but I knew that all of them loved sparkling cider and that they would probably get a kick out of having their own bottles to drink. I’d get up early on Easter morning, sit on the floor of our bedroom in front of the closet where I had been hiding everything, put the baskets together, and then set them in front of their bedroom doors so they could find them first thing when they got up. It made me so very happy to surprise them like that.

As I wrote that last paragraph, I physically felt the excitement I used to feel as I got ready for holidays and events, and it made me smile the biggest smile. But then it was followed by tears welling up in my eyes, because…well…holidays just aren’t the same for me any more. You see, holidays bring into focus the holes in my life, especially the huge hole left by Jason and the aftermath of his death. I have too many holes in my life and struggles surround those holes, and they make holidays really hard. They’re all hard, but holidays that celebrate “me” are hard for me in a different way than other holidays.

Everyone likes to feel special to family and friends and that their lives are celebrated by family and friends. I was no different. I wanted to be surprised by gifts and celebrated on my birthday, to be honored on Mother’s Day, to have love gifts or flowers from my husband on Valentine’s Day, to get well-thought-out-just-for-me presents for Christmas.

I remember one Mother’s Day it seemed as if no one had made any advance preparations to celebrate “my day.” It was one of those “Oh, by the way, Becky, where would YOU like to go for dinner?” years, and it rather peeved me a bit that not more thought had gone into celebrating “me.” Selfish. It just makes me feel so selfish now. How I wish I hadn’t been so selfish.

I guess that’s why I especially don’t like celebrating holidays where the focus is on me. I would gladly trade every single one of them just to have the ordinary days back of being together with my entire family. There were times when other things – “me” things or some activity or perceived need to be addressed – that seemed so important to me at the time. Now, I honestly can’t remember most of what they were. If I can’t remember what they are now, how could I have thought they were so important then? What really is important in this life? If I could just take back all of the times I was selfish – times when I thought I needed “me” time or when I thought I wasn’t being valued as much as I thought I was supposed to be – or when I thought I had too much to do to sit down and play a game of chess or cards with Jason, I would do it in a heartbeat.

You see, I’m just not that important in the whole scheme of things. I don’t feel the need to be celebrated any more. I’d rather the focus be on the people I love than on me. They mean the world to me.

If I could just communicate one thing to parents, it would be to cherish and value their family and those ordinary days with their kids. I see parents rushing their kids along or harping at them for one thing or another. It breaks my heart. Don’t realize how much more important those precious treasures right in front of their noses are than getting on to the next store or whatever? When those moments are gone forever – and especially if those children are gone forever – all of a sudden you see things with a new perspective. I know there are a lot of parents who are really trying really hard to do it right and who value their children beyond measure. It just seems like there are also those who forget how short those days are in the rush of adult things they feel they need to do.

Every parent has regrets, I would venture to say, and wishes they had done certain things differently. I have bucket loads of regrets and things I wish I could or had done differently. There’s nothing I can do about them now, and so I just have to deal with it as best I can.

I think I’ll just skip over my birthday this year and see if I can figure out how to reflect – or perhaps deflect – that attention to someone else so they can feel valued and important.

© 2013 Rebecca R. Carney

13 thoughts on “Happy Birthday to Me

  1. When my son died, one of the family’s best friends and co-workers asked what he could do for us – he had a son the same age as ours and I smiled and said, ‘Enjoy your son’s rebellions – they will not last forever”
    I hope that you may find some endeavor that brings you joy on your birthday. It’s not selfish to reach for whatever slivers of happiness you can in a life that is often too heartbreaking.

  2. Happy Birthday Becky! Your post touched me. Your whole blog touches me. The way you’ve lost Jason is doubley not fair! To lose a child… and then to a drunk driver’s stupidity is something I can’t even wrap my head around. I’ve lost two babies to miscarriage and those who can relate share an understanding that no one but we share… People who have dealt with natural disaster, are a little more sensitive now when one happens to someone else… LIFE just makes us more aware and it sucks but in a way it is kind of like being able to offer more, to reach out as a survivor to someone who is freshly just going through whatever they are going through.
    I may have shared this link with you before from my blog… I can’t remember? But the family photo are some of our best friends and her other daughter’s kids (their grandchildren) over ten years ago… her two daughter’s were traveling home from college… Jamie was driving them… she fell asleep and crashed killing herself and another boy. Her sister is the one I mentioned in my post who is the survivor. It has been a long journey for their family but they all never sieze to amaze me!
    Just thought you guys could relate… I plan to send her your link!


  3. Your post contains a very valuable message: live life fully right now. Not in some distant future. It is so easy to forget this as we rush around trying to check things off a never-ending To-Do list. But we must remember to stop and savor what’s right here, in front if us. Thank you for reminding us, Becky.

  4. Rebecca, one thing that I cannot do is look at the photo albums. The family will get them out when they are all home, or the family videos, or even just tell childhood stories – and I cringe inside. One of us is missing and he will always be missing. The one missing was so important that Jesus tells the story of leaving the 99 to find the 1. It’s like that.

    I share in your sorrow.


  5. Bless you, dear Becky. I do wish you a happy birthday, and hope you find a way to celebrate very quietly. Your birth is important in the lives of each of your children. How difficult for you to just be yourself, it seems. God bless you and give you strength for another year. oxo

  6. I always make sure that I am not at work on my birthday. I have no interest in my birthday. But we do celebrate our sons’ birthdays and try to do something special on Clea’s birthday. But mine is not important. Your posts are always so meaningful. Thank you.

  7. I find it impossible to “celebrate” my birthday, knowing that my son is not here to celebrate his. It’s also very painful to assess my life, which feels empty without my child.
    Like huntersoledad, I stay home and away from other people on my birthday.
    You’re so right about cherishing and appreciating your children every day. I wish everyone could understand this.

  8. Pingback: “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” | Grief: One Woman's Perspective

  9. Pingback: Living with regrets | Grief: One Woman's Perspective

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