Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

My Most Memorable Birthdays

Today I turned 48 years old. I do not think I look it, or at least when I am clean shaven. There is not much gray on top of my full head of hair. And any gray that I do have, or “snow” as a co-worker is fond of calling it, is on my chin. While many choose to tell me that my goatee (when I grow it) makes me look sophisticated, my oldest daughter chooses to be more honest, “the gray makes you look old.”

Forty-eight birthdays. I know I have lived that long, though I do not remember many of my birthdays. But here are some that I do.

1976. I may not remember how old I was turning without doing the math, but I do remember the year, because it was the year of the Bicentennial. It was a Thursday night. My family was gathered around the kitchen table. We had just finished eating my annually requested birthday feast, tuna noodle casserole, and of course was waiting the obvious desert, my birthday cake. My aunt had disappeared to light the candles on the side porch off to the side of the dining room. Out went the lights and the chorus of Happy Birthday began. Just as the song completed, in walked my uncle to feast on any leftovers before he went to his weekly bowling night. But he was a little more excited than usual. “Fire!!” he yelled. My grandmother turned and looked at him and said, “of course, there’s lots of fire” pointing to the lit candles on my birthday cupcakes. He yelled as he ran into the dining room, “No… FIRE!! on the side porch!!!”

It turned out that my aunt when lighting the candles, was using the old wooden matches, and a spark from the match hit a stack of newspapers just to the side of my birthday treat. The fire was put out in a matter of minutes, though the smell lingered, and the memory remains.

1988. Less than a month before my 23rd birthday, I was diagnosed with cancer, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. My initial thoughts were that I would be lucky to see my next birthday, let alone twenty-five more. Between the months of December and January, the only thing on my calendar that got attention was not my birthday, but the numerous tests that had been scheduled to stage my cancer, which would eventually lead to treatments.

2000. The Seattle Seahawks versus the Oakland Raiders. At least I think they were Oakland then, could have been Los Angeles yet, who cares? My one birthday wish was to see this awesome rivalry be played in the most difficult building for any visiting team to play football in, the Seattle Kingdome (which has long since been demolished). But the crowd noise inside during a game, regardless how bad the team had done each season, was an impossible place for visiting teams to play their most disciplined football. This particular season was pretty much typical, a losing season. And the game pretty much went status quo, all Raiders through three quarters. The weather was horrendous, raw wind driven rain in the open Washington Husky stadium. The Seahawks had been down by more than three scores and in the fourth quarter not only mounted a comeback, actually tied the game, sending it into overtime where the Seahawks would eventually upset the visiting Raiders with a field goal. I have no idea how the knuckleheads in Buffalo and Denver sit in the stands with no shirts in the middle of the playoffs when in the middle of December, fully clothed but soaked in a chilly rain, I WAS COLD!!

2013. This birthday is one that I truly want to forget. I have a dear friend fighting for his life in intensive care the week before Christmas. Over the last week, my employer continues to lay people off, just before Christmas. And though I will not discuss details, and though I have been divorced before, it is with this second divorce that I have children involved. This holiday season is difficult enough, but when I woke this morning, I knew there would be no presents for me from my daughters and there would be no birthday cake which I am well beyond needing anyway. But unfortunately, my daughters are not old enough to remember dates other than Easter, Halloween, Christmas, and the last day of school so no one gave them any reminder what today was. Still it was a memorable night as I attended my oldest daughter’s first Christmas choral concert, beginning what I hope will be the fourth generation of Edelman vocalists. 2013 is ending up to be one year that I definitely want to forget my birthday ever happened, but will go down rather as one I will never forget.

I do want to thank everyone though who has sent me emails and FB posts wishing me a Happy Birthday. It means a lot to me.

2014 has to be better.

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