April 7th, 1981. The Soviet Union was the big scare in the newspapers. Ronald Reagan was still in the hospital from his assassination attempt. “Rapture” by Blondie was #1 on the radio. The Tulsa World spoke about a new downtown renovation project for the Brady district.
At 11:45 AM, I was born. I was only 2 lbs 10 oz and 16 inches long. Before I entered the world, the doctor told my folks not to even name me due to how early I was, seeing as how I wasn’t supposed to be here until early June. A few hours after I had entered the world at St. Francis Hospital, Dad excused himself from the room and came back a few minutes later, telling Mom that I would be okay; he had a talk with God and had straightened everything out.
I was definitely okay. When I was six, we moved from Claremore to Broken Arrow, Oklahoma to follow Dad’s promotion at work. I celebrated my seventh birthday at McDonald’s among new friends, though my mother tells me I was concerned that they would sing Happy Birthday to me. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had this deep dislike for the traditional ‘Happy Birthday’ song and avoided it at all costs, including skipping a few friend’s parties.
When I was ten, we were in Springfield, MO at a Food Show. In the grocery industry, distributors used to have big annual conventions where companies could showcase their newest products and deals could be negotiated in person between grocery operators and suppliers. 1991 lined up with my birthday and we went out to Hemingway’s Restaurant at the Bass Pro Shop. They sang Happy Birthday to me and I was mortified. I made my parents promise to never do that to me again, though Dad greatly enjoyed teasing me about it every year thereafter.
When I turned sixteen, Dad sold me my first car, his 1988 Merkur Scorpio, for $1. I absolutely loved that car and drove it until it became too expensive to fix. There are dozens places along Highway 75 between Tulsa and Topeka, KS that hold memories of me pulling over for various reasons. When I finally sold it in 2003, I wept.
Most of my birthdays at home were celebrated with going out to dinner (to a place of my choosing, seems like it was always Goldie’s) and a movie. One year we went to Disney World in Orlando. Once I left home and lived on my own, I kept up that tradition for the most part, now accompanied by a phone call from my brother and parents, and a card from my grandparents. When I turned 23, Indi organized a surprise birthday party at Hideway Pizza on Cherry Street with my family and friends. My 28th birthday coincided with our Farewell Party at the VFW on Peoria, as we would shortly be setting out to travel the world.
Looking back, I’ve had a really good run so far. I wouldn’t change a thing about myself. I love my family and my friends very much, and everyone has had a hand in shaping me into the man I am now. I try not to think about the fact that I’m only going to hear from Mom this year, but as I get closer it gets harder. It’s been a long while since I’ve had ‘family celebrations’ for my birthday but there’s usually still been dinner involved. Last year, Dad bought mine even though he couldn’t afford it and it went straight on his credit card. I never in a million years thought it would be our last one together. That’s the way it works, though.
I don’t work on Thursday, and I think celebrating with dinner and a movie (even if the movie is at my house) is in order. I have a party planned this coming Saturday, too. I’m really looking forward to that.