Monday, March 15, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me

Saturday Was My 60th Birthday

Although it was my birthday, this tale is not really about me, at least not just about me.  Up until about 48 hours ago, I hated birthday celebrations, at least my own, special years, any year, all the same to me.   That does not mean that I would not love to celebrate your birthday.  I just didn't like to celebrate mine.  I am not afraid of getting older.  Heck, I am 60 years old, and it is not easily negotiable, as long as I am here on this mortal coil.  I am really quite happy to be 60; I just don't know how I got here so quickly.  I don't really like the attention, and truth be told have never thought I deserved it either.

You see, a wise man told me many years ago that there is a limit to how smart you can be, but no limit to how dumb you can be.  I keep proving the latter.

So, I set out to torpedo any thoughts of my birthday being anything but quiet this year.  But, because My Dear Wife, Christina is much smarter than me and is one for honouring people on occasions that are deemed special, I learned an important lesson, much more than that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

So, how I started to torpedo all thoughts of birthday stuff, was telling my daughters and My Dear Sister (younger, mind you) that I did not really need anything for my birthday (true enough) and that I would like it if they made a contribution to something charitable and thought of me as they did so.  I mean, how noble can you get?  It seemed like a really good idea to me as a man.  But My Dear Wife and almost as Dear Sister, along with my three daughters and my step daughters would have none of that nonsense, and I very much appreciate their better sense of timing.  I mean, My Dear Sister, who is a beautiful quilter was not about to donate a quilt to some charity this time, when her older, but not brighter brother was reaching a watershed time in his life.

As for my daughters, they have long since stopped really listening to the drivel that comes out of my mouth, and My Dear Wife shakes her head.

They all thought that 60 was an important milestone, and wanted to honour me.  Well, I discovered that birthdays are a lot like funerals, except the honoree is not dead yet, at least not completely, even if they might have had thoughts of killing me for being an idiot.  Fortunately, idiocy is not yet a hanging offence.  Birthdays are for the living, and unlike funerals, one of the living is the person whose birthday is being celebrated.  That may not seem like much to you, but for me it was an AHA moment.

For some reason (probably the prayers of My Dear Wife) I awoke on Saturday morning, the Day, and decided that I was going to enjoy whatever came my way, and as a result, I had a really good time.  I actually let some of those who love me do things for me, and I was happy as a clam to receive their well wishes, and gifts.

Two of my step daughters called early in the afternoon, when Herself was scurrying about town getting things, and asked to come over.  Now, these two young women, who I love dearly, came and spent a while with me, as they could not join the festivities later on, due to prior commitments.  They are bright young women, and have noticed over the years that I don't really have a watch that I wear, and I never know what time it is.  I have a watch; it's just past its expiry date, and is accurate twice a day.  They brought me a new beautiful watch, and thoughtfully it has a large face, big enough for someone with diminishing eyesight to be able to read.  It was a very thoughtful gift.

They were not the first to start the celebrations.  In fact, Herself does not like to limit major birthdays to a day.  It is not so much an event as a process for her, and I love that about her.  So, before we left Arizona to return home, she bought me an iPod Touch.  I had been looking for a Valentine's Day present for her, and had decided on one for her.  As I tested the waters with her before actually getting one, she pointed out to me that that was too big a gift for V Day, and for other reasons declined my offer of that gift.  I understood all the rationale she presented to me; I did not understand her ulterior motive.  She knew that my Palm Pilot, that I rely on to remember what I have to do, and where I have to go, even if I don't know what time it is, was on death's door, and so she had a retirement plan for it.

She had something else in mind, and shortly after we got home to Canada, she started zeroing in on a High Definition TV for the bedroom.  I could have argued that our old analog TVs do just fine, though we have talked about converting the behemoth in the basement into condominiums.

She gave me other gifts as well, including a St. Joseph medal that I will wear daily, but the most important gift she gave was a gift of empowerment to my three daughters.

One of my resistances to any significant celebration was that My Dear Wife has serious health issues that limit her physical abilities, so I did not really want her planning and executing a major event.  She invited my daughters to take the bull by the horns and make whatever was going to happen, happen.  So, by and large, she was able to stand back, with some step motherly anxiety, but a lot of calm, and let things unfold.

My eldest daughter, Marnie, who lives in Toronto, enlisted the aid of her boyfriend Dave, who it turns out is a marvelous chef, to plan a meal fit for a king (and his court).  The party grew a little though not out of control, as My Dear Sister Jane and her husband, another David, also from Toronto, said they were coming.  As though we did not have enough Dave's/David's, my nephew David Michael (with the emphasis on the Michael part of his name) and his girl friend Eileen, wanted to join in as well.

They had in turn invited my favourite aunt, Jean Brennan, to attend.  She is not one to miss a party, and so she agreed as well.  She is not just my favourite aunt because she is my only aunt.  I am sure if I had ten of them, she would be number 1.  She is a sweetheart and at 85 brings a lot of life to a gathering, and lots of cool stories that the young (and even the old) enjoy.

From the moment that Dave and Marnie arrived, until dinner, the two of them were in the kitchen, putting together appetizers, and the main meal.  I love to be in the kitchen myself, but enjoyed my day off, and particularly enjoyed partaking of my favourite vegetable, asparagus, and favourite fish, salmon,  as well as some new tasty appetizers.

My middle daughter, Melinda helped out with the decorations, and also brought me a calendar she had made with pictures of each of the three girls in many of the times that we have enjoyed over the years.  They are great memories for me.

My youngest daughter, Molly, baked and decorated the cake, and brought a framed picture and poem about a daughter's love for her father.

Not one of the people present followed my idea (in this particular instance) of donating to a charity in my name.  Instead, they all donated to a local charity, their husband, father, brother (in law), uncle, nephew, friend.

Having my aunt present allowed my daughters, and my nephew, along with Eileen and Dave, to get to know a bit about my own parents, and her as she told stories of the earlier days of the family.  I even showed them some of the mementos of my father's service as a fighter pilot in the Canadian Air Force in WWII.

Unfortunately, the evening came to an end, but the memories will linger, and we all celebrated life together, binding us closer to one another.

As for me, I learned some things that I can go forward with:
1) My wife is awesome. Oh wait.  I knew that already, but it was reinforced.
2) My daughters have capabilities that I never knew, and if I get out of the way, they can show me.  They need their Father's love, not their Daddy's help.
3) It is selfish to not allow those who love you to celebrate your milestones with you.  If I wait until I am dead to allow them to celebrate with me, I will miss out on the fun.
4) I am a very blessed man.  God has been very good to me, and all is well.

Thank you all for making my birthday a Happy Birthday.


Fr. Tim Moyle said...

Happy Birthday Michael! May you know God's blessings throughout the year.

Fr. Tim

Michael Brandon said...

Dear Father Tim:

Thank you for your prayers.

God is so good to me, providing me with wonderful opportunities to grow closer to Him each day, and the chances to see Him and His abundant love operating in others I encounter daily.

I sometimes forget that He is present in those closet to me.

Thank you for the opportunity to see Him operating in you and in your ministry.

God Bless You

JOSHUA said...

Happy Birthday, Michael. You seem to have your priorities straight. The best birthday present of all is family love. Been there, done that (altho MY family couldn't wait for me to turn 60 and did this whole number when Dad turned 50!)and want to keep doing it as often as possible.

My Chocolate Heart said...

Happy Belated Birthday, dear Michael! I'm glad you celebrated with your family and had a wonderful day. I pray this coming year is overflowing with grace and blessing. I look forward to all the things you will share with the world through writing. You are a good pencil in God's hand. :)

Michael Brandon said...

Thank you Joshua and Jennifer for your kind words.

God Bless You both.