I’d expected a card first thing in the morning, as we got ready for church. I’d waited through the service and through our late, diner breakfast.
I was impatient, but decided not to spoil the fun. I’d over-eagerly done that, before. Most notably, by ruining Jeff’s engagement plan and proposal.
I figured there would be a surprise when we got home. Only, there wasn’t one.
Halfway through Sunday, July 23rd, 2006, I finally said it. “It’s my birthday, you know.”
“I know,” he replied casually. “I didn’t have time to get you a present.”
“You didn’t have time?” I asked.
“Besides,” he tacked on, “I could never surprise you, anyway, ‘cause you see all the bills.”
“That’s true,” I laughed. “Did you get me a card?” I was still hopeful.
Jeff’s flat answer was, “No.” Then, a half-hearted, “I never made it out.”
“Well, why didn’t you make me a card?” I wanted to know. “You used to always make me cards.”
Jeff sighed, “I was gonna bake a cake later.”
“Oh, ok.” I understood. Going out and getting around was getting more difficult, so that made sense to me. “You could have wished me a happy birthday, though.” I stressed.
“Yep.” he acknowledged, with a nod. “I probably should have.”
Just about dinner time, Jeff got up, and said he was going to go make my cake. I told him he didn’t have to, and that I’d be just as happy ordering Chinese food.
So, that’s what we did, complete with my favorite almond cookies and ritual fortune cookies. As usual, Jeff wanted to know what my fortune said. I read it to him, to which he responded the same way he had every time since we’d first met. “Mine,” he’d wiggle his substantial eyebrows and the tiny little paper slip, “Says – ‘Lucky Number – 69!’”
Three days later, I came home to a colorful Happy Birthday sign in our home-office window. Strategically hung facing the driveway, so I’d immediately see it when I pulled in.
Waiting for me inside, was a stellar dinner. Jeff made a special meatloaf concoction of ground beef, sausage and salsa baked under a cloak of ketchup and garlic. Accoutrements: hand-smashed, garlic red-potatoes with butter, Brussels sprouts drenched in butter and dinner croissants… with butter.
The butter-use was a nod to the occasion. Our frugal budget and our smidgen of health-consciousness meant margarine, in tubs. When planning special dinners, or upon getting good celebratory news, Jeff would roar, “This calls for Butter!”
After dinner, Jeff told me to close my eyes. I opened them to a cake and a card. The double-chocolate cake was covered in neon yellow frosting and featured a black-piped beak plus google eyes to which he’d added eye-lashes using more black piping.
The card was a comic one. Amusing and strange, with an extra bit of Jeff’s handwritten humor. “Better late, than never.”
We went to bed full of cake topped with canned cherries and vanilla ice cream, holding hands, and giggling. I loved that chicken cake, and my husband, completely.
Jeff had managed to surprise me on a day I wasn’t expecting anything. I like to compare this birthday to the way I consistently and erroneously surprised him the day before his birthday; every year.
That card, though.
It was the last one.
Jeff had, unwittingly, been philosophically correct. I would gladly take always late, instead of never again.
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