Long Week, 18 Birthdays, Stewing In The Feelings

Last week was a long week. A week ago Monday my wife and oldest daughter flew out east to New York City for three days of Broadway shows, museums, and subway rides to and fro. While the ladies were in the Big Apple, the boy(well, man now) and I and the four-legged creature who secretly runs the house were home. I still had to work, the boy(who’s now a man) had school, and well, the dog had his busy schedule of napping, playing with toys on occasion, and waiting on the rug in front of the kitchen sink for treats.

As I’ve gotten older the amount of “me” time I feel I need seems to get shorter and shorter. I can make good use of about four hours on my own. Any more than that I start getting a little cage-y. I don’t do productive things. I’ll just sit and watch a bunch of garbage then feel guilty for watching said garbage. They say idle hands are the Devil’s play things or something like that, and I do get that. Except for me it’s more like idle hands don’t do anything. The house becomes a kind of quiet when no one is here but me that is deafening. It’s like being inside of your own skull, and that skull is soundproof. A vacuum of loneliness and isolation which you begin to question your own existence. That is until the dog on the rug in front of the kitchen sink barks at you for a treat.

I must remain vigilant for him.

While the women of the house were gone, our youngest turned 18. March 2, 2005 our boy was born amidst a freak snow storm. 18 years later I sat alone on a Thursday night eating chicken breast and brussel sprouts watching Poker Face with the dog. The boy who is now a man had birthday dinner with his girlfriend and her family(immediate and extended) at a Buffalo Wild Wings. His girlfriend was also born on March 2nd, but a year later. I’d had an idea to maybe grill us a couple manly slabs of beef on the grill, then he’d set up his brand new bass my wife and I bought him for his birthday(a Fender Jazz Bass and Fender Rumble 25 Bass Amp), and I’d sit out in the living room and hear him playing through the wall. It would have been a great way to spend his 18th.

But, it didn’t turn out that way.

I texted him before school got out that I wasn’t going to make anything special for dinner, so if he wanted to spend the evening with his girlfriend that was okay. No protests from him, so I flew solo that night. Well, me and the dog hung out.

It’s crazy to think of the big deal birthdays used to be around here. The girls had parties with friends over. I remember one birthday for our oldest when my uncle came over and did a magic show(he did that as a part-time gig, Marco the Magician.) Uncle Mark was very good and sleight of hand tricks and was a hit with kids. I think that was the most extravagant birthday party we ever hosted.

Our son, though, his parties were much simpler. He wanted us, his grandparents, and his aunt and uncle and cousin over. That was it. The only birthday he ever had anyone over was in 2nd or 3rd grade. One classmate showed up and that was it. It was what you’d call a real downer. I think the boy just preferred family for his birthday parties. He liked that close-knit feeling. He didn’t have to put on airs. Come to think of it, I don’t think he ever had any sleepovers until he was in high school. Now, he has like four or five friends over and they stay up till 5am watching movies and playing games. But when he was younger? Never.

Now, the birthday party is but a memory. Not only do we not have a bunch of people over, but apparently it ends up just being me in the living room eating a plate of brussel sprouts.

This isn’t a pity party. I was the one who told the boy to go share his birthday with his girlfriend. He’d already said he was going to go see her before he came home from school, I just figured he might as well just hang out with her for the evening. Nothing doing at home, except the old man, the old dog, and some steamed brussel sprouts.

That’s not a party. More like a wake.

I do remember my 18th pretty well. My mom took me, my girlfriend, and my older brother to Fort Wayne and we ate at Chi Chi’s. Remember Chi Chi’s? Major chain Mexican restaurant that went under eventually. Kind of a predecessor to Hacienda, but in my opinion much better food overall. Anyways, the four of us went out for dinner. My dad was working 2nd shift so he couldn’t go(there was probably some cake back at home, but I can’t quite remember that part of it.) My parents bought me Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon on CD and a Robert Johnson Complete Recordings boxset. Not sure if I asked for the Robert Johnson boxset. That might have been a bonus, given we were all big fan’s of Walter Hill’s Crossroads(“Jack Butler gonna like you.”) My older brother gave me Sting’s The Soul Cages on cassette. I probably lost some cool points with him, but I didn’t care. I was a big fan of “All This Time” and “Mad About You”, so whatever. I even remember what my girlfriend bought me, which was Mother Love Bone’s Apple on CD. She gave it to me a week before, right before she left for Florida for Thanksgiving weekend with her friend’s family.

Despite me being alone on my son’s 18th birthday I imagine it will be one he’ll likely never forget, much like my own. Sitting in a Buffalo Wild Wings surrounded by his girlfriend’s family celebrating both their birthdays with spicy wings, laughter, and even two different kinds of cake. Of course they exchanged gifts, he buying them some stuffed animals that they collect, and they buying my son a Lego Bonsai tree, a skincare set, and their mom even bought the boy a couple shirts.

Something about the skincare set kind of moved me a little. It’s the kind of gift that comes from a much deeper place, you know? It’s a caring gift. Not a mushy card with flowers and hearts, or some cologne or something. It’s a self-care gift. I don’t know, it means more in my mind. It was heartfelt on a level deeper than the typical high school sweetheart gift.

I guess I’m getting more emotional as I get older. I’m not crying at commercials or anything, but I do feel stuff on a deeper level. My hard outer shell has weakened over the years from all the lickings I’ve taken I guess. “How many licks does it take to get to center of a Midwestern curmudgeon? Well, not too many more.” I guess that’s a sign of aging, or maybe coming to terms with how truly little time we have on this earth. I don’t want to be mad anymore. I’m still quite mad, but not AS mad as I used to be. I’m more content to sit in feelings and stew a bit. Dig into them and let them do what they may to me. Most of the time I come out of the other end better off. Anger and frustration, if you let them, eventually turn to sadness which then becomes something more contemplative. Contemplation leads to a kind of resigned thoughtfulness that I never knew existed before. It’s a pretty amazing evolution from just pissed off rage, which I used to know quite well.

Doesn’t mean that the sadness doesn’t hang out a bit sometimes. Maybe even a day or two before the rainy day blues clear up. Sadness is all part of it; the cycle of feeling it and wrestling with it and coaxing out those emotional ghosts that occasionally haunt us. If you’re never sad, then I don’t think you’re doing life right. Depression, that’s another beast all its own. One that requires kid gloves and patience, and maybe even meds to help bring it to livable and understandable levels.

I guess I just had one of those big, heavy weeks last week. Big changes, quiet rooms, and a dog waiting for treats when I’d get home from work. Like he always is. If anything, that was the normal I needed.

2 thoughts on “Long Week, 18 Birthdays, Stewing In The Feelings

  1. Well J, you can always count on the four legged fur baby of the house to hang out right? Tomorrow our twin daughters celebrate there 24th birthday and life passes everyone by. Lex is in school tomorrow all day and her twin Lauren is going the U.S to do a bit of snowboarding for the day…
    Guess we will see them on Thursday for a bit lol….
    I have two fur babies at home so I’m still parenting to a certain extent.
    Cheers pal

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Then you know where I’m coming from. It’s such a strange transition, but it’s also pretty cool to see them become adults. Very bittersweet. And the fur babies are the glue that hold it all together!

      Liked by 1 person

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