Here is one reason why.
I was born September 23. My sister came into the world four years and 2 days later. On the one hand, she became the best birthday present I ever had. On the other...?
Birthdays became a "shared" event, but I never believed that. My parents themed them for girls, Candy Land, Barbie, Mary Poppins.
I enjoyed the movie "Mary Poppins," but it just wasn't for the guys. I complained.
"What about Michael Banks?" Mom asked. "Burt? Mr. Banks? There's plenty of boys in there."
That may have been true about the movie, but not the cake, not to mention that none of my friends would come. So I had to share a birthday cake with my sister showing Mary Poppins, umbrella over her head, flying over the rooftops of London, and the Bird Woman sitting on the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral.
The party consisted of me, my mother, my sister, and 9 of Deborah's friends. My father stayed ten minutes then retreated into the house to watch television.
In high school, my activities on the debate team prevented me from celebrating birthdays with my family. Oh, they sang Happy Birthday, true enough, and bought me a special cupcake with three candles.
No party. No celebration. No get together with friends.
I learned to mask the disappointment until I could stroll past.
Fast forward to my twenty-second birthday. I had my own job. My own place.
Since it fell square on a Sunday (my only weekend day off work), I hoped my girlfriend would forgo her weekly visit to her grandmother with her parents and sisters, to be with me for lunch or dinner.
"Well, I see y'all before Mass and we can have breakfast."
She threw her hand over her mouth. "I'm sorry. We're taking my grandmother out to breakfast and to Mass."
"On my birthday?"
No sale. "I'm so sorry, Rocky. We'll celebrate another time."
"Oh, Rocky," my mother said when I wondered if I could spend some time with her and my sister. "I forgot yours fell on a Sunday this year. Deborah and I are going to Jefferson for the weekend. We're celebrating hers next week. Let's do something for you, too. Invite Angie and her family over."
"That's not going to happen," I said, rather petulantly I'm afraid. "They'll be at her grandmother's. I understand family, but damn!"
"I'm sure she feels bad about it," Mom said.
I woke that Sunday so full of self-pity that it leaked out of my pours.
My roommate Greg helped. "Chief, let's go to Mass, have a nice brunch ... my treat ... go to the movies ... my treat ... and head over to your Mom's."
"She won't be there."
He patted me on the shoulder, "I know, but we should make sure the dog's okay, right?"
I had a grand time in spite of myself thanks to Greg.
I offered one last wistful sigh before pulling out my key.
Mom opened the door. "Rocky! Greg! What a wonderful surprise. Come on in. Deborah's gone, but I made some tea. Let's go to the patio."
Everyone was there. Deborah and my brother, my girlfriend her parents and sisters. Damn was I surprised.
And oh, so happy.
We played pin-the-tail-on-the donkey. We danced. We had chocolate cake.
At the end Deborah came up to me. "It's about time, don't you think?"
She'd made it happen. Arranged the whole thing with Angie and her parents, and Greg of course.
I didn't have a clue.
After my forty-ninth birthday in 2006, my sister called my friend Jill wanting to set up a surprise birthday for me for my fiftieth. Deborah died December 19, 2006.
But Jill, with my supplying information on who to invite, made sure that my sister's desire to give me a great fiftieth birthday happened.
She did a helluva job, too.
And despite what folks may think, Deborah was there as well.