Today is my birthday. Unlike most of my birthdays, I am not dressed up. I am not heading to work where I would expect to hear a few “happy birthday” greetings from my fellow workers. I don’t expect to get flowers or to go out to dinner. The inclement weather here is preventing a conventional celebration.
Today is different. Simply different. A casual day at home. I woke up early—as is normal for me. Being in my pajamas in the daytime never felt so comfortable.
A cup of coffee gives me the greatest boost as I look at the dawn. I read the news, checking on the weather.
“Most reports indicated that roads were just beginning to become slick around the Springfield area around 4 a.m.”
A serious blizzard has been forecast since yesterday. I continue reading.
“Plan on impassable roads with dangerous weather conditions in the Ozarks today. Stay indoors and off roads.”
Perfect! I grin.
Perfect day to stay at home. Perfect way to celebrate my birthday, I decided. I want to indulge today in writing. I have a few stories brewing in my mind, and I neither have had the time nor the energy to write them. What an enchanting day to bring those stories weaving through my mind into pieces of work, feeling my fingers dance across the keyboard. A day to feel my heart beat like a drum as I see my ideas transforming into heart-warming stories to share with others.
That’s what birthdays should be about. A day to relish in what brings us inner joy. A day to delight in heartfelt desires and passionate dreams.
As I hear the sleet pelting against the windows, I suddenly start thinking of the most special birthday celebration I have attended in my life. It was Marie’s 100th birthday.
Marie was my husband’s grandmother. I had heard many wonderful things about her. I couldn’t wait to meet her. There would be many relatives coming from different states to attend the party.
My husband, children and I walked into the nursing home. Marie had recently moved into a long-term care facility due to her health challenges. I was anxious. Not just about meeting Marie, but also the several relatives that I’d never met before. It happened to be most of them.
There was also an odd feeling of being a visitor in the facility. I didn’t realize that I’ve got so used to being “Doris, the nursing home social worker” that it felt fairly strange to play a different role that day, “Doris, the nursing home visitor.”
Yet my distress vanished when I met Marie. I looked at her sweet face, full of love, smiling at me. I felt her arms embracing me in a warm, welcoming hug.
Sweet Marie. I recalled my husband telling me that that was how everybody referred to her. Now I understood perfectly why.
I didn’t need to know much about Marie to feel her kindness and affection. And I definitely adored learning about Marie’s life. She was a devoted wife and mother. Her children and grandchildren have followed her path of loving and kindheartedness.
Marie was a lady well known in her town for the devotion to her faith and to people. Marie was a good soul always helping others. She made strangers feel as if they were her long-lost friends. Stories were told of how she sang and played the piano to bring joyfulness to children and adults, taught Sunday school, visited elderly neighbors and always made sure any elderly lady who needed her hair fixed, had it fixed up right at Marie’s house. Her freezer always had provisions of ice cream for the neighborhood kids and grandchildren who often stopped by to get a treat.
Marie’s compassion knew no limits.
There I was contemplating Sweet Marie on her 100th birthday. It certainly was an honor to be her guest, and now her granddaughter-in-law. Marie looked beautiful, elegant, radiant. Marie was having a happy birthday. She was indulging in what her passion in life was: being with people. Family, and nursing home residents she made friends with made her the best birthday present. And her last one, as she peacefully met the Lord a month later.
Immersed in my thoughts, inspired by Marie, I look out the window. The snowstorm is getting heavy. I am glad I have the day off. I spin around and go back to the dining table where I have my laptop. Unexpectedly, I spot a card lying on the keyboard. Someone had snuck in and laid it on my computer while I was distracted at the window. As I am unfolding the card, my cell phone rings. An unknown number.
“Hello?” I answer.
“Happy birthday!” One of the girls from work exclaims.
“Thanks!” I cheerfully replied, smiling.
“Guess what? You got flowers!”
“Uh? Who sent them?”
“I don’t know. The card is sealed. What do you want us to do with the flowers?”
“Place them in the refrigerator, please. And thank you so much for letting me know.”
“Sure. Enjoy your day!”
I glare at my husband and my son Ernie who are nearby conversing. I can sense that they know about my phone call.
“Who sent me flowers!?” I ask, showing a crooked smile.
They look at each other, and chuckle. Then they resume their conversation about the blizzard and the winter storm warning.
I turn around—grinning— feeling thankful for my loving family. I sip my coffee, place my fingers on my laptop keyboard—as I was taught in typing class in high school. And my thoughts start to unravel as I start typing a new story. A story about flowers and dreams.