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A Year Older, But Not Wiser

Red Candle

I really do believe I'm in a place right now.

My birthday was Sunday and I must stress that I believe I'm a year older, but not necessarily wiser. I'm blessed to have my health, my family and a great appreciation for life and a ever growing appreciation for the simplicity of life. Though the irony of this is that I live in (now somewhat outside of) NYC, one of the most complex places, if not THE most complex in the world.

I got plenty of Facebook love. Around 40 notifications just for my birthday. Those are stats normally reserved for my super social wife.

The day began dark and gray and it was only a matter of time before it began to rain. I love rainy days. Rainy days are God's way of putting the world (or whatever geographic space) on siesta for a little while, save for those who decide to have car accidents in the rain because they believe their vehicles are hovercrafts. I couldn't think of a better setting for me to put on some jazz, take a walk, kick back and just enjoy the day on my terrace --- depending on which way the rain was falling.

"Can you take Daddy to the airport?" Was the first thing I heard upon waking after my wife wished me a happy birthday. I looked around in my head trying to find the file on where driving someone to the airport is even mildly acceptable on a birthday. The wife had planned a little get together for me/our new home and had errands to run to prep the house for our guests.

But still, I failed to understand where that was just cause for me to drive to the airport, especially when I learned it was Newark (New Jersey). Before moving to outer space (the suburb where we reside) this was not much of a jaunt barring traffic, but here it's both distance and traffic. And the Man in me knew that going in --- especially on a Sunday afternoon and especially in the rain. And after schlepping furniture, housewares, computer stuff and people for almost 2 weeks straight as we continue to get settled. And in those same two weeks typically only eating dinner around 10pm because that's when I've typically gotten a chance to sit down. Sunday was the only day that presented itself as a day that I would actually be able to get up and not have anything to do. In my head my plan was to go to church to give thanks for everything, and spend the rest of the day taking the day slow, cleaning up here and there, enjoying the new furniture, television and wi-fi'd space we live in before our guests showed up.

No haps. Not only no haps, but I was slightly vilified for my very clear statement: I don't want to. Apparently the Husband in me didn't hear/understand/interpret the question when it was asked of me the day before, which I still don't remember being asked. She didn't want to go to the airport and have guests arrive to our home with nothing to eat. Honestly, I wasn't worried about our guest showing up with no food ready. But I was concerned about them showing up to a unkempt house.

Of course I took my father-in-law to the airport because what else was I going to do? My cause was lost before it started. I left my home at 1 pm in the rain and returned to my home around 4:30 pm in the rain, exhausted. It wasn't the driving as much as it was the traffic. As I spent the significant portion of my waking hours behind the wheel, I had one significant epiphany regarding a particular flaw of mine regarding the wife (more on this later). But other than that, I grew from angry to furious as I sat still for nearly 30 minutes in a traffic snarl. Eventually I was so angry I wasn't angry at all. I promised myself to show up at home with a smile, even if it was fake.

When I arrived home, the place didn't look any different than it did when I left. Everything I had intended to put away or out of sight was sitting in plain sight and in the way on tables, chairs and the floor. The oven was on, but no food was ready for our guests (the first couple arrived 10 minutes after I did). I spent the first hour of being home, as the sky went from gray to black, putting stuff away, misplacing my mother's birthday cards (which I still can't find) and sweeping. My son, who had promised me his room would be cleaned while I was gone, sat happily in a spacious, track-lit room with one-socks and scraps of paper all over the floor and actually asked me if he could leave to go hang out with friends. All the guys that came piled up on my couches, I put on the football game for them and debated switching into something nicer to wear, which is something I had wanted to do since I wear t-shirts and jeans every day of the week. Most of people there made an effort to look like they were out for the evening (even in jeans) so as the birthday boy I didn't want to look like I had been out mowing the lawn or driving someone to the airport because we all know no one gives a damn about getting dressed to drive someone to the airport. Besides that and that, how often do you get the opportunity to look like anything when you're unemployed?

I opted to stay in my t-shirt and jeans and moved about the place, not really ever sitting down or still. Of course, none of our friends and family cared about our place being pristine or no food being ready and all had a good time.

Here's the thing: I did care about the look of the place. As the head of the household I wanted to present my home to all who knew how we had been living previously and welcome them. Not to show off, but to present my family and I. Call me crazy, or just call me a man, a dad and a husband a couple years shy of forty wishing to act like a man, dad and husband a couple years shy of forty.

As usual, I was glad to see everyone had a good time. I did manage to shoot some Macallan 12 whiskey on the terrace with my mother-in-law a.k.a. my drinking buddy. My daughter ate most of the icing off the cupcakes and smeared the rest all over her lips like lipstick. As far as I go, I think my feeling on the day was neutral, I neither liked nor disliked it. This isn't a complaint, but rather a very basic observation. I thank my wife for the effort and the sentiment. But in truth I wasn't trying to make the day about me at all. The loner in me wanted to shrink away from everything, go for a walk, sit on my terrace, smoke a stoagie and drink, sipping slowly at something very strong (my preference: Mount Gay rum, straight and neat...no ice for you non-drinkers out there), look at my family in appreciation, thank God (yes, I know I mentioned alcohol, a cigar and God in the same sentence) for them and keep it moving. Do all of the above and then have a party in my space. Translation: I didn't want any measure of gifts or fanfare. I simply wanted to be left alone for a little while --- not to sulk or be miserable, but just to be. And I know that's not the easiest things for the people who love you to understand, accept or even allow. I wanted my wife to manage the kids for a little while so I could have a few, just a few, to myself on that one day. I believe that this desire was the Man, Dad & Husband in me all rolled up in one. That's just where I am right now and for some strange reason, I don't believe I'm wrong for it.

Shout out to all the September babies, specifically - my friend, Dear Mister Man's son who shares my day, and my friend, Bernice McFadden, who's day was a day before mine. And shout out to all Libras everywhere.

Photo Source: Flickr

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