This week I had another birthday – my 72nd. This year, no cargo shorts and Hawaiian shirt combo in a box. This birthday gift tradition ended when my sister passed away a few months ago.
My mother and I share the identical birth date. While she was alive, she made a point to present me with a card “for the two of us.” This birthday tradition ended nearly twenty years’ ago when my mother died.
Despite the ends of these birthday traditions, on my birthday I took some time remembering my sister and mother.
As always, on this birthday there would be no get-together with the kids and grandkids as I have none. Unsurprisingly, I got no birthday greeting either from my great-nephew —“grandnephew,” if you prefer – or his younger sister. Of course, I figured all along it was about fifty-fifty that I would hear from their father. I did not hear from Kevin. Kevin’s brother, Alan, did call to wish me happy birthday in keeping with his promise to Lee that he would keep one eye on me in her absence.
I received birthday well wishes from my friends, including a musical message from Bob and Linda in Ohio. In 2023 I observe that no one seems much interested in holding a party, or even a joint meal, to mark the respective birthdays. In 2023, my 72nd annual feels ordinary, just another birthday, which it is.
Also, for the second straight year I received unsolicited birthday well wishes in the form of text messages replete with happy emojis. The notion I am being tracked in birthday databases feels creepy. No bon mots, only hollow words from a computer. Perhaps next year further improvements to AI will produce birthday greetings that are convincingly authentic and heartfelt. Until then, however, spare me your messages but do send gifts or, if not, why not pass along a few useful discount coupons? I sincerely hope these cyber intrusions do not portend another birthday tradition but am resigned to the primacy of technology in our daily lives. Personally, I have no use for such social media but accept it is an ineluctable fact of life.
Late Tuesday morning, as soon as I got done playing pickleball – a decidedly senior citizen type of physical activity, I must say, yet one increasingly overrun with young people who should feel ashamed that they are not engaging in more strenuous and age appropriate forms — I hurried home to pick up around the house in anticipation of a special birthday visit from Robyn.
Regardless of the occasion, as always, we enjoyed a splendid time together. It is evident to me that we continue to grow closer. We are even creating what I hope might become new traditions – traditions all our own. Traditions require mutual commitment, which can go unspoken but nonetheless must be clear, obvious, and recognizable to the tradition’s participants. Fortunately, over time, the bonds of love and mutual respect between me and Robyn have grown. It is a remarkable organic process that cannot be hurried but emerges in its own time like so many summer flowers.
Robyn gave me a birthday card with a heartfelt message. It is still on display in front of me, and later I intend to keep it in a safe and private place. Even the smallest traditions must have a beginning.