Friday, February 27, 2009

My 35th Birthday

I am not too worried about birthdays. They come whether you are excited about them or not. Now that I am a father, I understand the importance of them to my kids, and they get plenty of attention on their birthdays. Having been married for a dozen years now, I too pay an appropriate amount of attention to my wife's birthday. But my own birthday, I don't really get too excited about.

My wife on the other hand...

Yesterday was my 35th birthday. Thanks to some excited utterances from the younger kids (and a cofirming disgusted outburst from one of the older ones...) I knew that my wife had some gifts stashed away somewhere. She had asked me where I wanted to go out for dinner, so I knew that was in the works as well. Other than that, it looked to be just another day at work. Answering phone calls, e-mails, wishing I could punch printers that simply refuse to act rational. So when I checked my e-mail and saw a Happy Birthday wish from my wife's cousin Tina, I was a little bit baffled. How did she know it was my birthday? Weird... But there is a rational explanation, my wife's family has a talent for remembering birthdays. That must be it. Then I got a call from my friend and co-worker Vic. He wanted to wish me a Happy Birthday too! How did Vic know it was my birthday? I questioned him, asking how he knew, but he just claimed to have known. Another friend an co-worker named Tyler was in my office and overheard this conversation and wished me a Happy Birthday too. What is going on?

I like to keep my birthday quiet. It kind of unnerves me when people wish me Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, Happy Saint Patty's day, or anything else. Not that I am irritated or insulted, I just don't really know how to respond. I also don't like the spotlight too much, and widespread knowledge of an impending birthday tends to focus that spotlight much too tightly around me. So I respond as I usually do, with thanks and a sudden effort to change the subject.

The next e-mail came from my mother-in-law. No surprise there really, I got her birthday card a week or two ago along with the usual Valentine's Day package for the kids. Nevertheless, it still put a smile on my face. Then I got the first phone call. My good friend Erika called from work to wish me a Happy Birthday, even though she had already sent an e-mail and text message the day before. (Like my wife and her family, Erika has that Birthday remembering talent!) It was great to hear her voice, but I did wonder why the second contact. Then another e-mail, this time an e-card from Barry and Paula, our friends from church. Now I am REALLY getting perplexed.

I strongly suspect my wife has done SOMETHING to cause this landslide of Birthday wishes. What it was yet I do not know.

Then phone calls from two friends from way back in Washington state. First Andrea called. I must confess that I interrogated her at length about how she knew it was my birthday. She was a great sport though, and it was good to hear from her too. Shortly after that my good buddy Slim. (Everyone else in the world calls him Kurt. I prefer Slim. He calls me The Doc.) It is really good to hear the voice of one of my heroes and catch up on things, if only for a few minutes. Then my friend from Texas, the good Doctor Jason sent an e-mail. It is at this point that I am really beginning to enjoy the flood of good will. I can't reveal my source, but by now I know what has happened.

My wife hacked into my gmail address book and sent a message out to what seems like hundreds of friends, family and acquaintances telling everyone that it was my birthday, and asking for at least 35 Happy 35th Birthday wishes. (Who knew Emily had hacking skilz?) All day long my blackberry kept buzzing and ringing as e-mails and calls poured in and I was reminded of all the wonderful people I have had the blessing of being acquainted with over the years.

My little brother the Accountant reminded me that I was 7/20th of a century old now, my big brother the Linguist had his phone call stolen by the interference from the Metro. My psycho sister-in-law and her fy-an-see sent greetings. The Stringham's sent their best wishes. The Sister missionaries called to sing Happy Birthday in beautiful harmony. Shauna emailed the secret of true happiness (which we would LOVE to comply with, if only it didn't mean moving to Canadia...) The Grolls wrote a very amusing if somewhat inaccurate poem. At dinner, Dad called from work and on the way home I got calls from Stephen, Ammon, and Michael, my super-nephews.

Back at home I found a very wonderful card on the door from the Conovers that made me want to cry... (Usually only Rudy or the Return of the King can do that to me!) There were two messages on the phone, one from someone who spoke very quietly but called me Uncle Tyler and one from Grandma Francis. (Who called and missed three other times that night before finally reaching me about 11:00!) More emails continued to roll in, from Marty the Sailor man and the Clan McArthur back in Texas. Then Lnnnnnnrd called but couldn't talk much while haulin' triples. Little Tyler, my young teenage hero sent his greetings, and then I spoke with his Mom, which is where he inherited his heroic qualities.

Depending on how you total it up, I got anywhere from 39 to 50 birthday wishes. When I woke up yesterday morning, I would have been hard pressed to name 39 to 50 people who cared enough to wish me a Happy Birthday. Not that I don't think I have any friends, I just tend to get wrapped up in my own little world sometimes and forget how blessed with family and friends I am. Without a doubt, this was one of my best birthdays ever. My gift was more than just a flood of birthday wishes, it was a reminder of how many good people there are in my life and how my life has been touched by so many good people.

For everyone who took the time, and everybody who would have taken the time if they could, I want to say a heartfelt thanks. You have made not only this one birthday better, but in some way have enriched my life and made me a better person.

And for my beautiful companion: Thank you. For being obsessed with birthdays, for forgiving me seventy times seven times, and for believing in me.

Now I have got to start remembering people's birthdays!

© 2009 Tyler Willson. All rights reserved

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