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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Sweet Birthday

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.


Kittie Howard said...

Happy, happy birthday! And thank you for giving such a beautiful post to us on your birthday. You have a gorgeous family and are truly blessed.

And your hub's grandmother doesn't look 100, wow, she's amazing!

Nana Jul said...

Happy birthday!!
Flowers...dreams...a snowy day off with jammies and coffee! Perfect!
Hope it's everything your heart desires!

Rita said...

How could you possibly have a happier birthday than being at home in your jammies watching it snow? It snowed her all day today, but did not stick and I didn't get to watch it in my jammies. I'm glad you got to. By the way, I see you are from the Springfield area. My sister lives in that area too, so maybe one of these days when I am there, we can meet. I'd love to do that. Happy Birthday and I hope you get to stay home a couple more days! What a treat!

Jules said...

So wishing you a warm Birthday greeting. The post was amazing, I spent the day with my 92 year old grandmother at her assisted living community. I sure hope you are still in, warm and safe.

Blessings on your Birthday :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Toyin O. said...

Happy Birthday, sounds like you spent your day well:)

Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder said...

Dearest Doris,

Glad that our card did reach you without any weather problems!
Lovely blog and especially the story about Marie's 100th birthday. Who would know that only one month later she would go to heaven?!
But for sure you did manage to kill your special day with lots of writing.

Have a happy new year with good health ahead of you.

Congrats also on being selected as top 50 blogs of social workers!

Lots of love,


Karin said...

A Happy Birthday and many more wonderful adventures with the Lord in the year ahead! Beautiful flowers and what a lovely story of Sweet Marie!

Amrita said...

Dear Doris , Happy birthday to you. Wishing you lots of happiness, joy, warmth and sunshine.

Lovely to read about Grandma and the pictures.

Enjoy the flowers and goodness around you.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Doris! Birthdays are so special and yours sounded wonderful. A day filled with reflection and wonderful memories, a day set apart. And, as is so typical of you, a day filled with thoughts of others.

none said...

Happy Birthday, Doris! I can totally relate to enjoying your time at home in pajamas, reflecting, and writing. There's been that birthday pressure...to be extra social, when for many people, it might be even more enjoyable to stay at home doing the things they love.

Anonymous said...

Oh, it sounds like you had a wonderful birthday, Doris! Snow CAN be lovely (if you don't lose power) and you get to stay home and enjoy a day like you had yesterday! Your stories are SO beautiful. You write so beautifully about the "special" people of the world. Glad you're back so we'll get more! It does sound, and look like you enjoyed your vacation to the "Land of the Swallows." Awesome photographs. Great memories for you. Stay warm and happy this week! (And thanks for stopping by and commenting on my snow poem. Certainly appropriate right now for those buried in quite awful snowstorms. We're very fortunate here in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Only one storm last week that did cause problems for all getting home from work, including my children, but otherwise, nothing here except warm rain. I'm counting all my blessings today, including the gift of wonderful friends such as you!)
Ann Best, Author

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday!!!!!!! Staying inside with a hot cup of coffee sounds like a great way to celebrate!!

Unknown said...

Happy Birthday, hope you had a great day!!!

cyclopseven said...

Happy belated birthday Doris. It is nothing like being in one's homey environment, with a cup of hot coffee and staring at the field of snow. And, story of Marie is soul-lifting. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story. God bless.

DUTA said...

A perfectly told story about a perfect centerian woman, on a perfect day!

Happy belated birthday, Doris! Enjoy the flowers and the card!

Katy-Mei said...

Sometimes, it's what we hope for... for a peace and relaxing birthday... hope you had a great day! Thanks for following. Mei

Arlee Bird said...

I like the sound of your birthday. That's the way I would want to celebrate as well.
Though Sweet Marie's celebration sounds nice too. 100 years is one to celebrate.

Happy Birthday, Doris.

Tossing It Out and the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge 2011

dr.antony said...

Happy Birthday,Doris.
When you reach Marie's age, you must write about her again !

Bica said...

I hope you had a wonderful birthday, Doris! How wonderful that Marie could celebrate her one hundredth birthday, and in such style - she looks amazing. I hope she has had a happy century of living.

I wish you many more birthdays, Doris.

Libby said...

happy late birthday, doris!! & many more~!

Meera Sundararajan said...

First let me wish you a happy birthday -albeit a belated one! I can relate to how you feel. I had a birthday recently and somehow it made me reflect on my blessings. Life is good but we need to see it from the lens of happiness.

K. Tree said...

A belated happy birthday to you!

Terri Tiffany said...

Happy Belated Birthday! What a great story again!!

A Plain Observer said...

Dear Doris, feliz cumpleanos y muchos mas.
I know enjoy my birthdays like that. I enjoy and appreciate the ones who call me, but no longer remember if someone didn't. We get wise as we get older.
I have been outrageously busy with the race I direct, sorry I didnt sooner. My email is myriamloor@hvc.rr.com.

Disfruta tu dia.

Unknown said...

Staying home in pajamas with lots of time for writing sounds like a perfect birthday! Thanks for sharing a little about Marie. She sounds like an exceptional woman!

Have Myelin? said...

Happy belated birthday! Your kind of day sounds like my ideal day!

Mary Aalgaard said...

I hope you had a great birthday. You sure described a lovely day!

thetiltedteapot said...

A lovely birthday! I know it was happy. How nice to be able to pamper yourself with coffee, jammies and writing, the perfect day. I hope is was happy.

Jane @