Today is Don’s 82nd birthday, and I trucked off to the care home with a couple of slabs of chocolate cake, a card from me and one from his eldest sister, and a book with big pictures as a gift.
I didn’t quite know what to do — I think every other year lately — maybe not last year, I can’t remember – we have had a party at a local cafe with cake and music and friends, Don’s kids have phoned or visited, and it has been a well-marked event. It certainly didn’t feel right to just ignore it this year. He is not dead, he is having a birthday! But everything i thought of as a present I figured would wind up scaring Don because it was strange (balloons, hats, sparkles, etc) or being a hazard because someone – probably Don – would try to eat it.
Anyway, when I got there, as usual Don was glad to see me, and we walked around awhile, admiring the “Happy Birthday Don” posted on the bulletin board. Eventually it was time for tea, and the gang gathered around, chairs arranged in a circle around the table, the staff standing on the edges.
The cake appeared, complete with candle, and everyone sang Happy Birthday quite robustly. Don said, “Oh is this for me?” and we all ate cake.
I had expected it to be a sad reminder of earlier times, but instead, sitting with the gang and interacting with them, it felt like a satisfying birthday after all.
Later, someone put on some music and most of us dozed off. As I tiptoed away, I heard three of the men singing “Heart of my heart.”