This year my birthday came and went without much fanfare. It happened to get lost among the excitement of the presidential inauguration and the shock of my father-in-law’s death. The morning of my birthday, I walked into the cardiac intensive care unit and received a few gentle hugs from my mother-in-law and brother-in-law. Someone handed me a card, but I didn’t open it until later. I was OK with that. I didn’t want to celebrate. I didn’t even want anyone to mention my birthday. Everyone wanted me to know that they didn’t forget and we’d celebrate later. Yes, I told them. That’s fine. Don’t even worry about it.

Patrick looked at me that morning and was so sad. I know he hadn’t given a single thought to my birthday, but I didn’t care. But that night, he handed me a birthday card and apologized. I still have that card and it still makes me sad when I think about it now. It’s not because he gave it to me at the end of the day of my birthday. It’s not because he didn’t say happy birthday to me or give me a gift. It was because every year since we’ve known each other, Patrick has picked out these beautiful cards and has taken the time to write something thoughtful. He always says he’s a horrible writer, but I love what he writes to me. But this card was different. I knew he had picked it out at the hospital gift shop where he had the choice between two or three generic birthday cards – I got the one with Barack Obama on the front. On the inside he just said that he loved me and how sorry he was that we had to spend my birthday in the hospital. Everytime I read that card I imagine him standing in the gift shop, just a couple of floors from his father, trying to find the energy to buy me a birthday card. I know he was embarrassed to have to buy me a card that he didn’t think was romantic. When I got home that night, I placed the card next to me on the bed and went to sleep. I kept it there every night until he got home.

So we never have celebrated my birthday. My mother-in-law took me out to dinner in early March, which was so nice, but when we left, Patrick told me that he and Duncan wanted to celebrate with me separately. They never did. I feel selfish for thinking about it, but at the same time, it’s the only day of the year when we feel like it’s our day, right? It’s the one day when we get a bit of special attention. I just missed that this year. I can’t say anything because it will hurt Patrick’s feelings, but at the same time, mine are hurt too.

Do you think this means I can just be 36 again next year?

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