A more mellow birthday celebration
On April 19, 1984, I wrote the following:”It’s hard to believe, but within the next 24 hours my life will forever be changed. It’s now 2:26 a.m. and in less than five hours I will be heading to the hospital to meet the child that’s been carrying me around for the past nine months. I have no idea who you are or what you will grow up to be, but I promise you one thing … I will love you my whole life. I’m not sure what kind of mother I will turn out to be, but you are the best gift I have ever received, and I haven’t even met you yet.
“I’m sure that these next 21 years won’t always be easy, but I promise that no matter what, you can count on me for anything. I don’t care what you grow up to be as long as you’re happy. If there’s one prayer I have before bringing you into the world (it) is that you never doubt that I love you. The most important thing I want to be able to teach you is this … Life will be hard I promise, but only in adversity will you find your strength. On your 21st birthday I’m going to mail this note to you, because I know in my heart when that day comes I will wish that I was back at this exact moment ready to bring you into the world instead of letting you go out into the world.
On April 19, 1984, my son, Glenn, was born. Today marks his 21st birthday, and it was very true what I wrote. I do wish I were back at that exact moment.
My son is now one of many serving his country through the Marine Corps. He’s done one tour in Iraq and is getting ready to go back again this summer. I was hoping that on this day I would be able to celebrate his birthday with him, but that’s not going to be possible. I’ve learned with my children that I can plan for all sorts of events, but in the end I have to take what I can get, and today I get to spend his birthday remembering how blessed I am to have him in my life. Near or far, all I have to do is remember, and I’m right back where I started 21 years ago.
Glenn never was one for parties, but there are birthdays I had to celebrate, especially when my children turned 16, 18 and 21.
Just before Glenn turned 16, I told him I was going to throw him a surprise party. He immediately said, “No mom. I don’t like parties.” I thought he was kidding so I threw him one. He wasn’t. I can still see him walking up the driveway and seeing all the cars. He tried to sneak in the back, but I had locked the door so he would have to come around to the front. We were outside on the patio when everyone yelled, “SURPRISE!” I can still see his face. I can’t repeat the facial expression he gave me, but I’ll never forget it. He was very gracious to all his guests, but when they left he thanked me and made me promise that I would never do that again. I have kept that promise.
When he turned 18, I decided I’d have to do something special for him since there was not going to be a party. I waited until he went to bed and then I grabbed the bright pink poster board and markers and went to work. I made a sign that read, “HONK! Today is my 18th birthday.” I took the sign and I fastened it to the trunk of his car where he couldn’t see it. The next morning I made him lunch and walked him out to his car and watched him get in. I smiled as he drove away. My daughter, Heidi, was in the car with him and said he couldn’t figure out why, all the way up Hwy. 20 and down Hwy. 49, cars were waving and honking at him. When he finally got to school he noticed the “pink” sign. My daughter said he smiled, said, “MOM!” and then yanked the sign off his car.
So Glenn, I know you read my column via the Internet, and I just want to know one thing. Which was worse? No. 16, surprise party you didn’t want? No. 18, pink sign that read: HONK? Or No. 21, letting all of Nevada County know that today is your birthday?
Happy birthday, Glenn! I love you.
Gina Gippner is a Penn Valley resident and mother of three. Her column appears every other Tuesday. She can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or computer chat at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/justmom/
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