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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Monday, November 28, 2011

22,995 days old...

When I was six I couldn’t imagine being as old as my grandmother. I didn’t think she could ever have been a young woman let alone a child at age six. In my six year old mind, she was always old – must have been born that way. I wonder if my six year old great-granddaughter thinks the same way about me. She knows today is my birthday but I don’t think she can get her mind around the numbers. 63 years have gone by since the day I was born. For my great-granddaughter, one year is an eternity – 63 of them would be impossible to imagine. It might be easier for her to understand that I’m 22,995 days old. She understands days and she understands that’s a lot of days.

Thinking back to birthday parties in the past is always a bit nostalgic. I sigh, cry, laugh and wish I could have some do-overs. I remember a birthday in Connecticut. I don’t remember how old I was – what does it matter anyway? The kids were in grade school and Riley was on shore duty. It must have been in the early 80’s.

We had a cute little house in what was considered to be a touristy community. We were only blocks from the beach. In spite of that, our house was a “year-around” lease, so we got the quiet in the winter and the fun in the summer. There was a sizeable back yard that edged off into a creek. Tall trees, plants and shrubs lined the perimeter creating a natural fence and the rest of the yard was lawn. I have no idea why, but Riley seemed to enjoy being out in the yard on Sunday, mowing the grass, trimming the shrubs, etc. Of course, he had always had a few before he got out there. He wasn’t end-stage like he is now. Then he was functional and our life was relatively acceptable.

There comes a time in the fall when the lawn gets mowed for the last time before the frost and snow sets in. It just so happened that on my birthday the lawn would be mowed for the last time that season. Riley had been celebrating my birthday quite a bit that day, so I was a little worried when he insisted he MUST do the lawn on my birthday.

I’m not sure what I was doing, but I wasn’t paying much attention to whatever was going in the backyard. It may have been the anniversary of my birth, but there was still laundry, rooms to clean, and dinner to cook. If I was lucky, we could all sit down and watch the football game.

It seemed that Riley was taking a lot longer on the yard than his normal lawn chore day. Oh well, I was busy and as long as he was in the yard, I knew where he was and what he was doing. I wasn’t too concerned.

I had just make a big bowl of popcorn and put out chips and dips for the game, when Riley came in and said I need to inspect what he had done. He was all giggly and excited for me to view his handiwork. He had never done that before. Something was up. He told me to close my eyes and took me out into the yard. Then he said – “OK! Open ‘em”!

It took me a minute to understand the whole concept of what he had done. I was a mix of delight and horror. This would not be good at the spring thaw.

A giant birthday card had been carved into the grass in the yard! HAPPY BIRTHDAY on one line and LINNY on the next and then a “heart” underneath my name and it was outlined with wavy lines all around. I was amazed at his creativity – because generally Riley was not. The difference in the grass height was a good three inches. The letters were almost down to the bare ground. I was laughing and hugging him. He was so proud of himself. I didn’t see him like that very often, so I put my negativity aside and joined in his glee. This was a good birthday.

The following weekend was the first snowfall of the season. I love that time when all the world seems quiet and peaceful. The fresh snow blankets the worlds and muffles any noise that would intrude on the peacefulness. I stepped out onto our back deck to see the white outlines of branches of what was once leaf shrouded branches. My eyes looked at the yard and saw HAPPY BIRTHDAY LINNY outlined in snow. It would take another snowfall to cover the greeting. I smiled, but I knew the grass cut so close to the ground may not survive the cold.

We received our transfer orders to Virginia in March which meant we would have to leave our little house in mid-May. Just in time for the spring thaw. I would be able to see the crocus, daffodils and tulips, but we’d be gone before the heat and tourist came to visit.

One of the luxuries of being a military family is that we are transferred from duty station to duty station using professional movers. This move was no different. The movers slammed the truck doors and I offered them something to eat and something warm to drink. They accepted my offer and went out to the deck, since there was no place to sit inside the house. I went back inside to continue getting things packed for the road trip.

I could hear laughing and talking. When I looked out, one of the truckers had climbed a tree at the edge of the creek. He was taking pictures of the yard. The birthday message was devoid of grass and each letter was fully visible. One trucker asked me when my birthday was. November 28th, I said. They laughed and told me what I already knew. That message would be around for a long time.

After throwing down some grass seed in each of the letters, we finished packing the car, got the kids settled in and left Connecticut. I hear tell that message was visible for several seasons, but eventually it disappeared. I’m surprised the homeowners never mentioned it. When the truckers arrived at our new home, they presented me with a picture of the yard’s greeting.

I won’t be getting a message carved in the grass this year. But, I was wished a good morning and happy birthday all at the same time. My gift this year is that Riley was able to remember that today is my birthday.


Karen E. said...

That is a great story about the lawn card!
Enjoy your day as much as possible.

jo said...

happy birthday!

Syd said...

Happy Birthday, Linda. I wish you a good birthday. I liked the creativity of the lawn "art". What a great surprise!

Anonymous said...

That is a truly lovely story. It brought tears to my eyes though and i know why, its because ive been remembering as many good things about my alcoholic as possible lately and there are so many occasions when i have giggled with him, joining in the sillyness. Sadly though every time i remeber "but he was drunk".
I hope you still have the picture x

ADDY said...

Happy Birthday. The coincidences between you and me are uncanny. My birthday is tomorrow and I'll be 61. I'm spending it on my own, though, but I sort of celebrated it a few days ealier when Kay could get down to see me. :(

Beth said...

Happy Birthday Linda!

You rock lady! Thanks for all you do!!!!

Karamelle Boutique said...

What a great memory… Happy birthday!

Wanda said...

Happy Birthday, Linda. I, too, was 63 on my birthday in June. A was in hospital with split open head from fall, then nursing home, then rehab. Came home, stayed sober 6 weeks, and now back in hospital for two weeks getting progressively worse and unable to walk today. Deciding tomorrow our next move. I am unable to be lifting him at home due to a blood clot in leg and two bad knees which I will get fixed when I am done caretaking for A. Life goes on! Enjoy your birthday as best you can. Love your blog.

Michele said...

Happy Birthday, Linda! I'm glad you have some good memories of your life with Riley.

Eli said...

Happy Birthday Linda!!!

And many mooooooore!!!! :-)

tearlessnights said...

Such a great story!!!
I love that you KNEW the consequences and results yet kept your mouth shut and celebrated with him. I think we who love alcoholics are so used to having to 'run the world' and hold everything together that we are 'hyper-adults' and always feel like we have to think 7 steps ahead. You DID that, but you kept your mouth shut and embraced the today. *sigh* A good lesson to remember once in a while.

Thanks and Happy Birthday!!!

poet said...

Happy Birthday Linda. So glad you wrote this. Do you still have the photograph the movers took?