Tomorrow I will be 39.
Its sort of odd, at this point, being “alone” for my birthday for the first time in years. And yet, at the same time it’s not really any different. The people who make me feel loved and valued on this day are the same people who always did before. My friends. My family. My kiddos. Basically, everyone except PC.
I’ve always been a big birthday person, but when I was in my 20’s I had this friend named Jess who was a really big birthday person. She believed wholeheartedly in the notion of celebration, and it didn’t matter if it was your first birthday, your 20th, or your 42nd. If she asked you what you were doing for your birthday, and you were to respond with oh, I don’t know, she would look at you as if you had three heads or as if you had never tasted ice cream and set forth to make your birthday special. As she was my roommate for a time, I got to experience this love firsthand and adopted her way of thinking. Birthdays are special!!
Looking back, it is abundantly clear that PC never gave a rat’s ass about my birthday. Oh, sure, he’d go through the motions. And there was one year he threw me a surprise party in our backyard. But overall, it was just another day to him. He’d toss me a card and head off to work. He’d oblige in going out to dinner with my friends but clearly be bored. Last year, in fact, he proceeded to go upstairs and shower while 4 other people sat on our patio, all of us waiting for him. Finally I told him to just meet us there and I believe that was his plan all along. He was 45 minutes behind us, and left before the night ended. And when I see the photo from last year, I realize that at this point, he was likely already deep into his affair with the Trollup.
There was the year that I was supposed to go away with my girls and instead had a very angry uterus that had me in the ER and then couchbound. Did PC do anything to make that birthday even somewhat pleasant? No. He went about his plans, after all, you were supposed to be out of town, he reminded me. I made plans. He did nothing to take care of me, and when I was feeling better on the second day, he still did nothing to celebrate, even though we were kid-free and the weather was lovely. I wanted to find an outdoor bar to dine at. He wanted to meet a friend at a grungy dive-bar in a town 20 miles away. So that’s what we did.
He never gave me gifts. He never had the kids give me gifts. One year, knowing I wanted a new laptop, he basically told me to just buy one for myself because he didn’t have time to go laptop shopping. He didn’t have time. Well, he sure found a lot of time for late night texting with Trollup, now, didn’t he?
And in the craziest twist on birthdays…PC always expected something big and was always disappointed, no matter what I did. A few years ago on a Friday night, the kids and I went to the Dollar Store and I let them pick out gaudy decor. I made dinner and baked a cake and invited PC’s friends over. Had a fire going and music on the patio when he came home. Picked up a case of his favorite beer.
PC appeared to enjoy, but by all accounts his level of appreciation was low. This is classic narcissist. He always felt like his birthday was the most important of all of ours, you know, because he believe he is the most important. I remember his comment I thought you’d invite more people over. I remember his disappointment that his “surprise” was just a low-key evening on the patio.
Last year, of course, was the kicker. Shortly before his birthday, and very close to “the end”, and certainly while he was entangled with Trollup, we went away for a weekend. He asked what I had planned for his birthday, in the midst of casual, pleasant conversation, and I responded with Nothing yet, what would you like to do?
This spawned into a huge, terrible, hours long fight that made no sense to me but I now recognize as classic narcissism. He repeatedly stated how disappointed he was, how I didn’t “get it”, how he didn’t want me to do anything for him anyhow. Bled into tangents of how I didn’t care about him and all I care about is my friends and basically being disappointed about a birthday I had not even had a chance to consider, let alone plan.
I remember eventually going to bed that night, being completely and utterly confused and wondering what in the world I had done wrong. How I could have handled things differently? Of course, the answer was obvious in my ever-growing inner voice: I had done nothing wrong. There was no world in which a husband should get to that level of anger towards a wife over a birthday that hadn’t even happened. But of course, that was life with PC – a narcissist and an alcoholic.
So after we returned home from the weekend, I quickly threw together a surprise birthday party at our favorite restaurant. I invited about 10 or 15 people—most came. I kept it a secret but at the same time alluded to PC that there was a surprise in the works, just so that he wouldn’t bitch and moan all week that I had nothing planned. Two of the friends came from out-of-town. The restaurant provided a cake. It was a perfectly acceptable birthday in anyone’s world: good friends, local place, element of surprise, good food.
After we left, we went back to our house with a few friends, and when they left, I said “Well, I hope you’re happy with your birthday surprise” – not in a sarcastic or snotty way, but in a genuine way. He shrugged, forced a smile, and said yeah, it was great. Thanks.”The absence of sincerity was palatable. And so I went to bed and he, as per the phone records I later perused, spent the evening texting Trollup.
Anyhow back to me and the eve of my birthday. Tomorrow, my life will still be a shitshow in many ways. Nothing is resolved and PC continues to cause problems. He seems to be particularly fond of doing this on the weeknights he has the kids…as if he is purposely trying to make sure that my kid-free time is not pleasant. But…
For 39 years I’ve gone around the sun. This last year has been, without a doubt, the most challenging of my life. I suspect the next year may give 38 a run for its money. But. I’m still here. Nothing has killed me yet, not even PC and his crushing betrayal and nonsense and drama and utterly toxic existence.
I go to bed tonight in this house, my house, with its comforting walls and warm vibes and strangely endearing 1950’s wallpaper. My kids won’t be with me tomorrow night, but tonight they are both tucked safely upstairs, snoring little tan bodies tangled up in their sheets. I spent my evening working on a fundraiser with my most wonderful, dearest, best friend in the world. Another friend dropped my daughter off and we laughed, belly laughed, at our girls’ antics in the fading daylight in front of my house. I’m sipping wine and my dog is asleep at my feet.
Tomorrow, my selfless and wonderful parents will come and toil away on this house, and I’ll end my birthday at my best friend’s house, where she will cook me a lovely meal while I chat with her husband in the early evening light. In the midst of it, I will have to deal with and see PC (or Trollup, you never know who will show up to pick up the kids) but it will be but a blip on my radar. A tiny speck of dust on a great shining light that is going to become my 39th year.