How do you measure your year, Mom?
Before we start this week, I want you to know that I measure my year by the days you can go without seeing me, without speaking to me.
Your birthday is this week and I’ll probably give you a call- something you couldn’t conjure up for me this year.
You sent me a text.
If you pick up the phone this week and find me on the line, you’ll say what you always say: “Hello, my darlin’.”
The way you say those words, the way you say anything to me, will always catch me like a punch to the stomach. The wind gets knocked out of me simply because you speak words that vibrate through my ears and sting me in my eyes.
I suppose it’s an out utero response I acquired.
When I called you a few years ago on your birthday, I had hopped off the train after my commute from work and wandered around a Barnes and Noble while I tried reaching your phone. I was browsing the leather-bound journal section when I started calling you and made my way into the non-fiction section before you answered.
You began by talking about how it was hard to hear me on the phone then went into how Grandpa was doing and how often you had been able to see him recently. You talked about your hours at the post office and how you’re scheduled on odd days of the week. You explained that’s why you don’t call me more often. You kept talking at me and I would “mhmm” and “oh, really?” ever so often.
Then you started talking about how everyone forgot it was your birthday.
I said, “Well, Mom- that’s why I was calling you in the first place. I didn’t want to interrupt you. I actually remembered it was your birthday and that’s why I called you.”
“Oh,” you paused. “Why didn’t you say anything?”
“I was going to say something but you went on about how your phone isn’t working and-”
“Well, that’s very nice of you,” you interrupted. “Your brother didn’t say anything yet.”
“He’ll remember. There’s still time.” I made a mental note to give Ryan a text to remind him, just in case he did forget.
We then said our goodbyes and as if we had a normal relationship, you closed with an “I love you.” I got another punch to my gut. Sometimes if we spoke, I wouldn’t say it back just to return the favor- but it was your birthday.
I’ve come to the realization that a birthday isn’t about the person who was born. A birthday is about the person who gave birth. I want you to know that you made me afraid of my birthday.
It’s now the only day of the year you will reach out to me. It makes that punch your voice packs 365-days stronger.
I took a week off of work anticipating that punch.
I cried on my birthday from the blow of that punch.
And after all, it was only a text.