LIFE: IT HAPPENS
Let me tell you: I love birthdays! They are days that bring more than physical gifts. Anything exciting can happen and serve as a gift–and I expect it to. I love celebrating, planning, attending, anything to do with birthdays.
So, when I got invited to my Facebook friend’s surprise 50th birthday party, I couldn’t turn the invitation down, even though I hadn’t seen my “friend” (actually a former classmate) in over thirty years! I anticipated a challenge because this undertaking would first, take place at night, and second, in an unfamiliar venue. How would I handle it when Birthday Boy saw I was now using a blind man’s cane?
Kathy, a neighbor I grew up with and am still close with, and I went together. It was a cold, blustery January evening with the temperatures dipping into the single digits.
“Got your cane?”
“Ready to rip?”
“Rip? Like R.I.P? You mean I’m takin’ my life in my hands?” Then a moment of nervous laughter hit me. “Did you say ‘Ready to trip?’ ”
“Come on, I’m doing you a favor by going with you, and I’m freezin’ while you’re making jokes.”
She was right. The coldest day of winter, and there I stood, facing the brutal wind, making jokes. When we spoke, our breath came out in tiny puffs. The wind sliced through my clothing. Without a hat, my head, ears and neck, exposed to the frigid air, froze. Even my fingers became stiff, gnarled appendages in the short walk from the parking lot to the building.
We ducked inside. I stood still for a few moments to let my eyes adjust to the dimly-lit interior. Kathy waited patiently for me to give the go-ahead to move forward.
“How about that table over there?” I tried to follow her chin movement. Over there? To the right? To the left? Across the room? My eyes were still adjusting.
“Oh yeah…the table is right ahead of you. Can you see it?”
As my eyes finished adjusting, I saw the dim outline of something round that I guessed was the table. “Ummm. Now I can. Okay, let’s go.”
I swept my cane back and forth. That made me feel like a street cleaner, except instead of cleaning I was spreading snow in wobbly arcs across carpet those first few steps. We reached the table–to the right of the door–and shed our coats. Some other women joined us.
“Let’s get something to drink.” Kathy suggested.
We ordered our beverages and headed back to our table. When I set down my coke, I spilled hers. It was a combination of not seeing it and numb, clumsy fingers still in freeze-mode. I watched the contents cover the table in record speed. I could definitely see that! People dashed madly about to bring napkins and paper towels while I stood by watching. I should be cleaning this up myself. “Sorry. Sorry.” I apologized as the women tried to staunch the mess before it dripped onto their clothes. I caught Kathy’s eye. As usual, she was very low-key and took it in her stride.
At that moment, Birthday Boy arrived at our table. He gave each of us a big, warm pull-me-close hug, which stretched out into a second one… He was feeling “good,” as the saying goes.
The next thing I knew, Kathy was saying, “Guess what Amy did? She spilled my drink all over the table. I didn’t even get my first sip!”
What is she doing? I glared daggers at her, but this time the darkness was in her favor. Drats! She was not cued into any of my “Watch-it-you’re-on-dangerous-ground” signals. What would Birthday Boy think?
“You did that?” He smiled benignly, revealing a missing tooth in the top right hand side of his mouth. He seemed inclined to forgive any clumsy misdeed. “You’re lookin’ good, the both of yous,” he gestured to Kathy as well.
“Ahhh…it’s very dark in here,” I muttered to explain away both the spill and his compliment, thinking how I would skewer my friend the moment he left.
“It’s been a long time since I saw ya last.” He looked relaxed as he tugged on the flap of his baseball cap.
“Yeah like thirty years,” I reminded him. I hadn’t seen him since high school.
“Want ya to meet my wife and doctor-I mean, daughter…” He called out to them, swaying a little, “C’mere…”
I smiled in Birthday Boy’s direction where I expected them to show up. I held out my arm and thought they’d take it if they were there. No one did. So I quickly pulled it back, my cheeks red.
“Oh daddy, whaddya want?” The blurry figure of what looked like an attractive, but slightly heavy-set young blond girl came into my view. He put his arm around her shoulder; his pride was unmistakable. “This is my daughter.”
I nodded at her.
“Are ya havin’ a good time?”
I wasn’t sure if she meant Kathy and I or her dad, Birthday Boy. I kept silent.
He smiled at all of us,”What’s more importan’ than bein’ with family and friends at my big 5-0?”
An older, heavier but less made-up version of the teen girl stepped into my view. Long light-colored hair and a friendly, wide smile caught my attention. “So nice to meet you. I’ve seen your comments on Facebook.”
“Yeah, I’ve seen yours, too. ”
The older woman continued. “My daughter here actually sent out the invitations for the surprise party.” She looked approvingly at the girl next to her.
“Oh, yeah.” I beamed at the girl, too.
Birthday Boy and his family left shortly after and continued to circulate.
“Wow! He didn’t mention anything about my cane.”
Always practical, Kathy pointed out, “Well, that’s because it’s all folded up.”
“Oh, right.” Suddenly, I remembered how she’d sold me out. “Why did you tell him I spilled your coke? I can’t believe you drew attention to something like that.”
She made a face.“I thought he might offer to buy me another one.”
I rolled my eyes. “I guess you spilling the beans didn’t work, did it?”
She reached for her purse and stood up.”No, I wasn’t as successful as you were in spilling my coke. Ha! Gotcha!”
I volunteered to buy it but she refused. It’s not that much. But don’t you go near it!”
“Don’t worry. I don’t think I could stand a repeat performance.”
I managed to go through the buffet line without dumping any chicken wings … wasn’t sure how I could carry a plateful of food and manage my cane at the same time! But slowly and steadily, I made my way to our table from the buffet–after finally identifying our table again when I spotted Kathy’s bright sweater. Grateful for her stripes, I sat down. And ate. I even got up and got a second helping.
After singing happy birthday and watching Birthday Boy blow out the candles, Kathy said, “It’s time for the cake.”
“It sure is. I love birthday cake!” I didn’t have to say that. She knew quite well how much I loved cake from a lifetime of parties with me. In fact, she was the very same way. Already on her way to the table. she called over her shoulder, “I’ll get some for you, too.”
When she returned, I reached out for my piece of cake and knocked hers to the floor in the process.
We both looked down in dismay.
“Oooooh,” I groaned, frustrated. “It’s so dark in here.”
“That’s okay. It is dark. ” She bent over and scooted me out of the way. “I’ll get it.” Why is it that I feel like such a kid around her sometimes?
She scooped up the cake in a napkin and wiped up the frosting, then set out to get another.
I waited for her to return and we ate our cake together.
“Mmmm,” I said, licking the fork. “There’s tons left. Maybe I should take one for my mom and brother to split.”
“Yeah, they wouldn’t mind. I’ll get you one before we leave.”
In a little while, we started saying our goodbyes. Kathy waited patiently beside me, with the cake for my family in hand. I slipped one arm into my coat and unfolded my cane with the other. My cane–divided into four straight pieces and held together with an elastic line–popped into place as I pulled it. Unfortunately, I opened it upside down, which meant the roller ball tip was at the top. When I pulled, it hit the cake, loosely covered with another paper plate, and sent it straight to the floor.
Kathy and I looked at each other. I gasped.
She shook her head in disbelief. “You’re wild with that cane.”
I slapped my hand to my forehead and laughed. “Do I dare ask you to get another?”
She paused and with her usual good nature, acquiesced. “I guess I can do that.” We looked at the overturned cake, which had slid partly out of the sandwiched plates that held it. A party reveler not paying attention stepped in it and smeared the frosting. “You just stepped in cake,” Kathy pointed out. The man never heard her, just kept on walking. I giggled and scraped what remained off the floor with a napkin. “I’ll get the cake . But how about if I carry it back to the car? You have enough to do with … um, using your cane.”
A half an hour and several goodbyes later, we met up again with Birthday Boy. He saw my cane. “Nice stick ya got there but it’s a little tall for you, doncha think?”
“It’s not so much tall, as l-o–n-g. I need space or someone’s going to get their ankles knicked!”
That opened the door to a liberating discussion where I mentioned how frustrated I was that I could no longer drive. He admitted how frustrating it was to lose a lot of hair.
“…If you ever need a ride, just call me,” he offered.
“You got it. If you ever need a toupee, I mean, a book,” I said with a grin, “just call me.”
“You got it. Just let me know when it’s out. ”
Aren’t birthdays exciting? The dim light meant I had to look things over more before I acted. Actually, when it got down to having fun, it meant overlooking things when I acted. When it came to gifts, I didn’t think Birthday Boy would ever need the crying towel because he didn’t seem to mind turning fifty. He got a lot of other gifts, including diapers, and other lighthearted gag gifts. But I came away with a few fun gifts, too. I had the slapstick “gift” of the coke disaster and the memory of the two pieces of cake I knocked out of Kathy’s hand. I kind of “gagged” myself. They provided some lighthearted memories like Birthday Boy’s gag gifts. Kathy and my friendship was none the worse for the wear–another gift. The best gift of all for me that night was the chat Birthday Boy and I had at the end.
The more I open up about my vision, the easier it’ll get.
It’s all in the ‘tude, folks.
Life. It happens!
Photographs in this post are courtesy of morgueFile Free Photos.