My mom forgot my birthday. Somewhat unlike the scene in Sixteen Candles, where Sam, dazed and confounded, wails, “I can’t believe this. They fucking forgot my birthday.” No, dear reader, not that kind of… I’ve got-five-other-kids-birthdays-to-remember-so-what-do-you-think..happens kind of not remembering. “Happy Birthday, my dearest Jodi,” just damn well didn’t happen this 42nd year. She just couldn’t remember to utter those words.
Moments before, I sat in the near empty lot of Bullet’s Bar returning my parent’s expected birthday message. Dad would’ve written on the calendar in super, small engineer precision handwriting to remind himself to call. I’d answer and hear him shaming himself for the late cardand check. “Here talk to Mom, he’d say as he passed the phone to her. I could see them, in my mind-sitting on the plaid couches in the family room, the TV typically now on volume level 42, with dad’s bad hearing. He’d have paged through the duct-taped phone book to dial my #504, pushing the buttons too hard not to be mad at them. Mom, sitting on her corner of the couch, would no longer be the manager of the card, the call. Seems like the minutes we’d spend catching up—they had become more like seconds.
“Joe, who’s this? On the phone?..Oh, Jodi, ok.” Jodi. Jodi, Jodi. I’d hear her whisper into the phone.
“Well, Hi, Jodi, ” she’d began.
“Hi, Mom. I’m just sitting here waiting to go into this bar.
“Oh, that’s nice. To meet your friends?”
“Yep. It’s my birthday, so we are going to listen to music and drink some beer.”
“Well, beer is always good. You having fun? Jodi?”
“Yea, I think it will be nice to go out for my birthday…Because it’s my birthday, Mom.”
“Oh, ok, well, have fun, Jodi.”
“Thanks, Mom. I love you.”
“Love you too, Jodi”
I sat there for a minute. Dropped my iPhone on the seat next to me and stared out across the street. The bar would be getting crowded soon. I could see the neighborhood guy placing the orange cones along the lot. I’d have to remember to give him a couple dollars to watch my shit box of a car, I’d thought to myself as I willed myself not to cry. I begged the tears in my eyes not to make a path down my face.
I was almost coaching her into saying, “Happy Birthday,” knowing she couldn’t do that. Like I was testing her or some such bullshit. Like my need for her to say it, superseded the compassion she needed from me. That’s the messed up part of this disease–you are always praying for the version of the person you’ve known your whole damn life. Someone totally different then shows up. One mind fuck after the other.
You are continually hoping that the woman who ordered your fudge cake from Jarosh’s bakery would phone it in. The one who’d bought you your Easy Bake, who scoured stores for your Barbie Dream House. The one who hang the “Happy Birthday” sign across the kitchen window. That that version of Mom, would somehow-poof–appear.
But. She doesn’t. She can’t. It’s funny, if I were able to talk to her about this, you want to what she’d say about all of this boo-hooingness? She’d say, “What are you going to do? Stick your head in the oven? Get on living, girl.”
Yea, I know, Mom. You would say that.