The whole birthday, holiday, special day thing seems to bring similar stories from so many of us here. For many years when my now adult kids were little kids, I just stopped having birthdays. (Yeah, I wish I could have stopped the aging for that bit of time as well!) Basically my birthday would just come and go and not a word would be said at home. That’s why my oldest son told me last year it was my fault that he didn’t remember my birthday, because we didn’t celebrate it at all when he was growing up. It’s true, my birthdays were unbirthdays in those years.
I think there were a few times that I tried observing some birthday formalities to make it seem normal to the kids . I tried to fake normalcy by buying myself a present, cooking myself dinner, and baking or buying myself a cake. That ended up just making me feel worse. Eventually, it became easier to disconnect from the pain of being ignored by just ignoring the day. Years would come and go, and no birthdays for me.
Most of the time that was bearable. Hurtful, but bearable.
There were those years here and there when he would run out on an emergency errand ‘the day of’ Mother’s day or my birthday. That was almost worse. He’d find the ugliest wilting flowers in the grocery market, a cheesy strange card, and maybe something that looked like it came from the dollar store for a gift. This was usually under duress to not appear totally uncaring to the kids. Way to show me what he thought my worth was?
I knew that if I tried to talk to him about it, he’d instantly become aggrieved, misunderstood, unappreciated, and I’d hear a barrage of accusations about every way that he feels uncared for by me. Every way that I fell short of being a good wife. Every way that he sacrificed for me, and how unappreciative I was. That would cause me to feel confused, off kilter, and I’d end up thinking about everything he ‘tried’ to do for me and the kids. After being bombarded with that, I usually just let it drop into the Swamp of Deadends. My feelings about not being cared for on my birthday, Christmas, and other special days were all compartmentalized into a box and shoved in some emotional closet.
Bottom line, my husband doesn’t forget my birthday. He chooses not to do anything for or about it.
I know this because he’s been reminded, and usually not by me. My daughters would remind him.
Once several years back, his mother heard from one of my daughters that their father didn’t ‘remember’ or celebrate my birthday. Even his own mother thought that was wrong, so she tried to call and remind him ahead of time that year. Yeah, so even that didn’t ripple the unbending pond of a passive aggressive. I think that year he just got so busy, so so so busy that he ‘meant to’ go shopping and plan a dinner, he really did (poor busy tired lamb), but somehow the days just slipped by (even with daily reminders that followed by our daughters).
So if he was forgetting, it was a selective and intentional forgetting. Forgetting once, twice, or a few times over a few decades could be forgetting. Ignoring it when reminded for over three decades is a purposeful pattern.
This year? I plan to do something similar to what I did for last Mother’s day when I bought myself beautiful delphiniums to plant, and those inexpensive garden solar lights that I’ve enjoyed all summer. I’ll think of how I want to spend the day, anything special that I want to eat (probably take out), and do whatever I want. It’s time.