So it happened.
I’m a year older.
It amazes me how people’s eyes get a gleam when someone wishes them a happy birthday, no matter their age or even if they are a self-proclaimed birthday Grinch.
When this day comes for me, while I am grateful for the merry wishes (and the fact that I was born and am still breathing), I usually have this moment of taking stock where I wonder what I’ve learned. Not that I think a birthday is magically supposed to be some moment of clarity each year. It’s just another day. I know this. Still, I can’t seem to keep the hamster wheel from turning, searching for some answer that I’ve discovered a secret about myself I didn’t know before.
Thirty-five. What does thirty-five have to tell me this year?
Can You Take The Heat?
When life hands you lemons, grapefruits are sure to follow close behind.
I’ll spare you the details of the lemons. The grapefruit was that my central air unit went out at my house. No problem. I’m tough. I can take it.
Holy shit, is it humid this summer!
My mother, whom I have dubbed “The General” in the most lovable way possible, is a “fixer”. She could be Harvey Keitel in “Point Of No Return”, but, you know…shorter, cuter, and like bakes stuff and says “sweetie”. The General waved her “mettling wand” in my direction and insisted I buy a wall a/c unit to tide me over until I scrape up the dough for the central air replacement. Nah, I said. This is just a waste of money, I’ll sleep in the spare bedroom in the nice cold basement. Really, it’s Popsicle cold down there!
It’s 9 a.m. I should be sleeping. I work midnight shifts. I slumber with the vampires.
The General is calling me. I can’t ignore it. I just can’t. Someone might be dead, after all, and I’ll never find out if I don’t answer immediately.
The General chirps, “Oh! You’re still awake. Good! Your father and I are coming over with your birthday present, so don’t go to bed yet.”
I’m too old for presents. They got me a present? Why am I slightly terrified? I wasn’t even good this year. I’m too old to think I’m good OR bad. Why does The General make me time warp back to twelve years old by the mere sound of her voice? Must be the pecking order of the universe. In the background, I hear “Paterfamilias” aka Dad (because that’s what old people do-they talk over each other, in case they don’t come up with anything else to fight about during the day).
Paterfamilias chimes in a quip about this mystery present, “It’s hungry and and it needs to be fed soon.”
What…the hell? All I can think to add is, “Has it at least gone to the bathroom?”
He’s full of crap. I know he is, but we hop into these conversations about nothing and alternate-realities of our lives because…that’s just how we roll, I guess.
Paterfamilias rings the doorbell. He rings the doorbell because it drives my dog crazy, so therefore it needs to be rang, no matter that I am standing right in front of him and can see him through the screen door. He shows all his false teeth as he laughs and the the “Granddog” howls, as is his one sacred guard duty.
They’ve brought me a window a/c unit. They have brought me…a window…a/c unit.
We spend the next THREE hours installing it, while I watch The General and Paterfamilias speak a secret marital language that is akin to the snarl of rabid alley cats being attacked by a posse of raccoons.
That is what love sounds like in my family.
Paterfamilias growls at me each time I nearly touch the window he is struggling to put back in, regardless that his entire upper body is shaking. His shoulder probably hasn’t had properly attached tendons since “Sesame Street” first aired, but doctors and surgery are for sissies. Apparently, so is allowing your daughter to help make sure you don’t drop the damned window.
If we don’t look alike, one genetic trait that manifests is that we are all “sweaters” in my 86 degree Fahrenheit house because we are all dripping like fat Pollack sponges.
Yes, I just made that up.
The General has retreated from battle with Paterfamilias and is now perched on my nightstand. Holy shit.
Is she going to start her usual curious snooping and find out what’s in there? Holy…shit. My eyes dart back and forth from the seizure my father denies he is having to the woman I know who can’t sit still and opens drawers and doors at random when she gets bored.
Sweet baby, Jesus, the window popped back in! Haaaaaaa-lellujah!
It’s over. Cold air is pumping out. They smile, kiss me goodbye, and declare they are now headed back to the farm for an entire day of picking vegetables for their “retirement” produce business, while I am headed to bed feeling like a lazy ass because it is daylight hours and my 60+ parents just installed an a/c unit for my adult self, like I am a helpless, spoiled child. My self-esteem plummets in a sea of gratitude.
Thirty-five mocks me and says, you can’t wipe your own ass, even though you intended to.
Thirty-five sneers, you’re supposed to be the one taking care of the pushy old folks, not the other way around. Quit letting them steam roll you, even if they do it with the best intentions.
Thirty-five snickers, you were born into this crazy family. You’ll never be right in the head. You’re doomed to laugh when you shouldn’t. You’re a bunch of clowns and the world will always see your big red “honking” clown nose no matter how you church-it-up. You’re not thirty-five, you’re a kid in old clown clothes. You’ll never subscribe to The New Yorker and The Economist. You’ll never talk about important meetings at Starbucks. You’ll never eloquently argue politics without sarcastic humor. You’re screwed!
Where’s the clarity? Where’s my validation that I’m a serious, responsible, wise adult?Aren’t I supposed to feel better today?
Wait. YES, I DO!
(insert old Frank Loesser melody here) It’s coooold inside! Baby, it’s cold inside!
Piss on you, thirty-five.
Clown #3. Out!