The first one was with my ex-husband Rob, who turned 70 earlier this month and who has notoriously and vehemently hated any mention of any birthday since he turned 19. Don’t think for one moment that he hasn’t lived life to its fullest; it’s just to him birthdays mean he’s one more year closer to death. He has always been an outdoorsman, a brilliant professor and an avid martial arts student and teacher. But over the last 5 years, he’s been plagued with health issues ranging from minor to debilitating.
The second conversation about birthdays was with my lover Lee, who turned 60 last weekend and who happened to mention that there have been many birthdays that have passed unacknowledged unless someone sent a birthday card.
Rob called me because he was looking forward to attending Lee’s surprise party but would be unable to due to his latest injury which is either a muscle pull or a hernia. He told of upcoming vacation plans that would have to be shelved and of how the day before while putting his dogs’ bowls on the floor for breakfast, he collapsed in pain and lay on the floor for half a day until the pain was diminished enough that he could get up. HALF A DAY! I said to him that I was so sorry he was suffering so many physical ailments recently. He replied, “I don’t know why it’s such a surprise, I’m 70 and just waiting to die.” He abruptly ended our call after that.
Unbeknownst to Lee, 40 or so of his family and closest friends gathered together to wish him a Happy Birthday last weekend. He was under the absolute impression that we were attending a dear friend’s military retirement. The surprise was that we were there to celebrate his life- 60 years of laughter, love, pranks, antics and memories. To say he was emotionally moved is trite and an understatement. Seeing ‘his whole life’ in one room was cool and reminded him how lucky he’s been in his life to have such caring and wonderful people in his life. He was genuinely grateful. And on more than one occasion he’s mentioned that he plans to live for another 30 years. I truly hope so because I plan to walk with him through each of those 30 years.
I love these two men in similar and yet different ways and I have known each of them for 27 years. Rob’s waiting to die saddens me greatly; a light will truly go out in this world when he dies. Lee’s planning to live another 30 years fills me joy and hope. Joy that my friend and lover will be making people laugh for a very long time and hope that we will spend those years together living a little and loving a lot.
Happy birthday to two of my favorite men; you mean more than you will ever know. I love you.