This morning it was just me and Jacob, his brother away still, at camp; his father off at a comic convention in Chicago. When he woke up at the ungodly hour of 6:30, I plopped down next him on the sofa. "So is there anything you want to say to me this morning, Jake?" Expecting.... I didn't know what.
"Happy birthday, Mom!" he piped up, the first of many birthday wishes from him today. Most delivered with a big hug and a kiss too.
It was odd not having Ethan around, as well. Though we had celebrated our birthdays last Sunday on camp visiting day -- his a week late, mine a week early -- it was still not quite the same as spending the actual days together.
But the biggest, oddest absence is, of course, my Mother.
This was the first birthday of my life that I didn't see or speak to her, she who has been there since the beginning, she who birthed me. It felt so odd, that sense of "something missing" hanging about me all day. That phantom limb whose faint ghost-pain keeps the bite of absence keen.
"Who else called to wish you Happy Birthday? Dan asked from Chicago when we finally connected to catch up. "Not my mother" was my immediate reply. "It just feels so strange to have a birthday without at least a happy birthday call from her."
"Well, it would be stranger if she DID call, wouldn't it?" He shot back, parrying with the gallows humor that those of us with dead parents use to lighten grief's load.
And yes, I laughed. And that was good.
And thus this was neither the best nor worst birthday of my life. Fun was had. And the melancholy came and went, as it is now wont to do.
My brother-in-law and sister-in-law sent a luscious, glorious floral arrangement that took my breath away (and I then spent the day fending off the cat from devouring it).
Friday night I was taken out to dinner by a small bunch of good girlfriends. We had a completely lovely evening, full of laughter and talk and wine and good middle-eastern food. Conversations swirling on, we bounced from movies to kids to husbands to jobs and back around again... getting older, middle school transitions, summer reading lists... travels or lack thereof (one of us confessed to sitting on a park bench and crying whilst reading the Facebook status updates of another of us from Paris, and I could so relate).
Presents came: handmade, floral, yummy, bejeweled, and from Paris. Many many hugs were given and taken; my heart light as a breeze, the whole walk home.
And no, my parents never called. Not my Uncle Walter, either.
And yes I know it's just the price of growing older, of becoming the eldest generation, as countless families before me have so evolved.
I don't like it. I don't have to like it.
But it surely beats the alternative.