When she handed me the envelope she was vibrating. She gets that way sometimes. In it was my birthday card and she knew it was a classic. She found one that summed it up and would fill in the blanks. Most of all, she knew it would make me laugh.
Her eyes danced between my face and my hands as I opened it. I am notoriously slow at opening things, it drove her mad. I slipped the card out and on the cover it revealed a pie eyed little stick boy sitting on the can. His big blue circle eyes just looking at me while his short nubby stick hair stood out on end. The little guy didn’t seem to be having all that much fun. In fact, I felt that I just walked in on him. When I pulled the card out it was if I opened an unlocked bathroom door revealing him in all his young vulnerability. The caption under the picture asked the question as if it was startled out of him.
“It’s your birthday?”
I glance up at Kitty and she’s glowing. It’s time to open the card, reveal its wonder. And I do with a smile growing. I want to make her happy.
“TOO BAD I DON’T GIVE A CRAP!
In her distinctive script (to me anyway) she then signs the card.
“Get it? Hee Hee! She adds the old school emoticon next to it. The little smiley face.
That phrase was superfluous. I got it.
A couple weeks ago the family got news. The boys and I had just pulled in from a road trip to Seattle. Eight days on the highways and byways moving along from one place to the next, putting miles behind us. We got in on Wednesday evening and there was some activity brewing at the big house. It was Nate’s birthday and Kitty wanted to greet him that night with a couple of friends. I was just going to drop off the boys and head on home. I was beat.
I turned to leave and Kitty walked up behind me. “Before you head out I need to talk to you. Just for a minute.” She followed me to the street and I leaned on the truck.
“I want you to know this early on and before I tell the boys tomorrow.” She was calm and measured and beautiful. I was not. “I have cancer.”
The time it takes to play a thousand scenarios in my head can only be measured in nano-seconds. It turns out that she has something that I don’t quite understand eating at her colon. The weeks that have gone by are filled with tests and the waiting for new discovery. As the ex, I don’t know my role in all this and am patient in letting her tell me what she wants or needs. She has a lot of support.
In all of this, one of her biggest let-downs is that she won’t be able to walk in this years Avon breast cancer walk. Each year she gears up and feels that there are two days that she makes a difference.
Another birthday has come my way and she has done it again – she can make me laugh. She knows me and I know her. I can smile with her over the idea that it is her sitting on the throne waiting for something to happen.
And we are all waiting for something to happen. More tests are done and a surgery is scheduled. I am trying to fit, and I think that I know how.
Years ago when we were still married, Kitty told me a phrase that rings true more today than ever before,
“The greatest gift a man can give to his children is to love their mother”
And I do.