Thursday, June 15, 2023

Birthday Eve: Expectations and Inevitable Disappointment


Last Year's Birthday Cake

For my entire life my birthday has been a source of disappointment and frustration. Don't get me wrong. I love my birthday. I have always considered it to be a personal New Year's Day, a reset, and a milestone. It's a time when I get to reflect on my goals and my dreams, and congratulate myself for how far I've come. After all, maturing isn't easy and getting older is a pretty emotional affair, especially when you hit your 50s.

I know that there will be presents and cake tomorrow. Ed will desperately try to make my birthday special. He'll sing to me in the morning. There might be fresh bagels. We'll definitely go to lunch or dinner ... and we'll do ... something. I know he'll ask me what I want to do. 

What the hell do I want to do? I dunno. Not cry would be nice. For the past 9 years, I've cried on my birthday. Why? Mom isn't here to share the day with me. She won't be calling me in the morning to sing "Happy Birthday," adding funny lyrics and giggling. I would always wish her a "Congratulations, Mrs. Zawadzki! It's a beautiful baby girl!" My birthday is just another reminder that she's not here.

It's also a horrific reminder that, besides Ed, I pretty much have no one in my life. Well, no family at least. The empty mailbox is a reminder of this. EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. Usually I get one or two cards. Not this year. Nothing. Zero. Zip. Sure, there will be Facebook birthday wishes, as there is every year. I do appreciate those. But no matter how much I send folks cards and well-wishes, there's never a reciprocation. I stopped sending cards. Shrug. I used to buy friends and family cards and gifts, and throw parties for them. I would sing on the phone and leave silly messages. I very rarely got the same in return. My birthday always seems to be a burden or afterthought to folks.

I spent my entire life sharing my birthday with Father's Day, my ex-husband (whose birthday was yesterday), and assorted family members. The day was never really my own. Growing up I only had two birthday parties. TWO. One when I was a little kid and my Sweet 16. That's it. I guess I should be grateful I got that. As an adult, I would organize and throw my own parties. Not many people would come because, SURPRISE, it's Father's Day weekend. I also spent my entire childhood not getting to celebrate my birthday at school. No cupcakes from home or classroom games because I'm a summer baby. We don't get class parties. We're the forgotten ones. I spent my entire childhood resenting this. As a teenager I was usually taking finals or Regents exams on my birthday. ALWAYS. 

So here I am, sounding like an ungrateful wretch on the eve of my 51st birthday and dreading tomorrow. I'm dreading the question, "what do you want to do today?" I'm dreading not hearing my Mom's voice. I'm dreading the empty mailbox. There's no party planned because I didn't plan it. At least I won't have to share my birthday with Father's Day or someone else's birthday. My Pop is dead. Ed's Pop is dead. And there's no one left to share a birthday with. 

I know I sound horrible and grumbly, but I'm anxious and upset and dreading tomorrow. At 51 years old, I'm dreading my birthday. Sigh ... I wish we were camping or somewhere else. 

So yeah, Happy Birthday to me. 


  1. My sincere wish for you is that you will enjoy a wonderful birthday tomorrow by focusing on what you do have in your life -- a loving husband who wants to celebrate you and make your day extra special -- rather than by focusing on what you do not have now or did not in the past. Give yourself the gift of happiness, my friend -- you deserve it!

  2. I am sorry that your birthday has always been so overlooked. I think my dad can feel solidarity with that as a Boxing Day baby. I hope you get to go camping soon!