Happy birthday to me...
Isn’t it funny how we always think that we will simply make it to the next birthday, no questions asked? It wasn’t until I started to get really sick that I realized each birthday isn’t guaranteed to us. This morning, I woke up at 5am and the first thought I had was the birthdays of my past. I remembered that when I turned 20 years old, I was living in North Carolina and it was my first birthday away from my family. For my 30th birthday, I was in my first home that I had ever owned and I was waiting for Sears to deliver my new dishwasher. I also remember that I was going to work that night and it was the first time that I had ever agreed to work on my birthday.
For my 40th birthday, I desperately wanted to do something special. I wanted to be in Paris. You see, Paris is my “go before I die” place. I believe that everyone has somewhere that they would love to travel to before they die. For me, that place is Paris. I have wanted to go there since my 6th grade French teacher spent the entire year teaching us all about it. I fell in love with the city all those years ago and ever since then I have sworn that I would see it before I die.
When my brother spent a month traveling through Europe with his wife he mailed me a drawing from a street artist that was done in Paris. It has hung on my wall ever since the day I opened it. I have little Eiffel Towers all over my apartment, a large travel guide where I have mapped out the places that I would love to see and I keep up with a blog called www.justanotheramericaninparis.blogspot.com that is fantastic. I even overcame my fear of heights and claustrophobia to squeeze into the packed elevator to ride to the top of the imitation Eiffel Tower in Las Vegas when I was there on vacation!
Alas, my 40th birthday was spent in my pajamas on the couch courtesy of Chronic Lyme Disease. I was barely strong enough to sit up to open a few presents and eat my traditional “Jello cake” which I have eaten every year since I was about 16 years old. No, it is not made entirely of Jello. It is a lemon cake with holes poked in it with a wooden spoon, then you pour green liquid Jello over it and let it chill in the refrigerator so it makes green stripes in the cake. Quite yummy with the special cool whip frosting. But I digress…
The point I was making is that birthdays have always been a special time in our family. They are a huge holiday, second only to Christmas. It is a time to celebrate YOU. A time to rejoice in the fact that you are here on this earth and all that you mean to the people around you. My mom has always made us feel extra special on our birthday and for that I will be eternally grateful. Since becoming sick with a chronic illness, it gets more and more difficult to celebrate any holiday ~ especially my birthday. Even though I know that I shouldn’t take the time that I have for granted because I know each day is not guaranteed to me.
Chronic illness can cause you to isolate yourself for many reasons. You are suffering and you really don’t want to see anyone. You certainly don’t look your best so you don’t want people to see you. You are tired, cranky, hurting and likely haven’t kept up with hygiene so only your closest friends are allowed to cross your doorstep. You don’t have the energy to entertain so you slowly fade away from your social contacts and your world becomes the four walls of your room and your computer. When your birthday rolls around, it feels like just another day of pills, pain and sleep. If it weren’t for the text messages, emails and phone calls you might even forget what day it is altogether.
Unless of course, you have a mother like mine. I know that my mother will still make my day special today. She will make my “Jello cake” like she always has for the past 26 years, she will come bounding into my room with a sing-song voice saying “It’s YOURRRRR BIRTHDAYYYYY” and she will do everything in her power to put a smile on my face today. It won’t matter how many pills I have to take, how much pain I am in or whether I have showered or not. She won’t care if I am cranky or sick or if I fall asleep mid-sentence when she is talking to me. It is my birthday and I am her child. She loves me and she will make it a good day for me no matter what the circumstances.
I don’t need Paris to have a good birthday. I just need my Mom. And Jello cake.