Seriously, Just How Important Is A Birthday?

Updated: See My Goofy Picture at the Bottom

Today is my birthday.

I don’t say that so everyone makes a big deal about it. I only mention it because I’ve been thinking lately about why most of my life I’ve spent this particular day each year waiting to see who would remember, yet avoiding the internet, telephones, and the mail. What an odd thing to do, now that I really think about it. And on the back of a motorcycle yesterday, I had plenty of time to dissect why I hate most holidays, but especially Christmas and my birthday.

Growing up, my birthday always fell around the time that we were packing up and moving to a new place. My mom was a master packer/mover, and it literally took her one day to get us organized, packed, and loaded. Frankly, it was kind of an incredible sight, but it was also kind of depressing for me. We almost never stayed anywhere long enough for me to make friends, and being a “summer” birthday girl, there weren’t any birthday parties, with the exception of my sixteenth birthday. And,  I am pretty convinced that my Aunt Pamela was behind me actually having a Sweet 16 party, not my mom. We happened to be living in Harlingen for that birthday, and for once, I had quite of few friends from the private school that I had known since we were all small. I remember my Aunt Pam asking me what I wanted to do to celebrate my birthday that year, and I have no idea what my answer was. What did it matter what I hoped for? I figured we’d get a cake and some ice cream, they’d sing to me, and I’d get a present from my Aunt and Uncle and my Grandmother. All of these things were more than we ever did when we lived away from my mom’s sister and mother. Most of the time, Mom would bake a cake a few days after my birthday, promising that the next year would be better. But when it came to my aunt, she wouldn’t dream of not getting me a present. She was always good about things like that.

I knew my mom wouldn’t be able to afford a gift for me for this birthday either, but would promise that next year would be better. Growing up, I can count the gifts I’ve gotten for my birthday on one hand. And most of them came from other family members, but not my mom or stepfather.

It isn’t about the gifts or parties for me, though. It was about feeling special…like someone was glad that you’d shown up in this world, and wanted you to know it. And so, each year was a painful reminder to me that even mom didn’t think much about the day I showed up in this world…And I was her First Born Kid!! In fairness to my mom, though, she was from just as broken a childhood as me, and her family didn’t make a big deal about her birthday either. I think she’d be surprised to know that I always felt this way, and probably a bit guilty as well. She was raising five children, all very different and very demanding in different ways, plus not getting much help in any of the areas of her life from her husband, all the while making a little bit of money stretch to pay for just the very basic needs we had. Birthdays were just not a priority when it came to all that she was trying to balance.

Believe it or not, I didn’t get bitter about it, even as a kid. It was sad, but normal at my house. I didn’t get parties, but neither did the other kids in my family, and to me that was even worse. My two brothers and two sisters are actually quite a bit younger than me, and to see them disappointed when they were little was just mortifying. They seemed always to hope they would have a birthday party with all of their friends, or wish for a specific toy,  but I only remember them getting one or two parties the whole time I lived there. They did get presents, though. Their grandmother (we have different fathers) was always faithful about sending gifts to them no matter where we were, and as they got older, those presents were pretty much what they would request. And they were always wonderful gifts, so that made the sting of their birthday disappointments less potent. But, for my brother and I, who weren’t the biological grandchildren, it was a rub in our faces. We usually got socks and underwear for presents…A keen reminder that we didn’t belong to that family.

Anyways…enough of the sad stuff..

That Sweet 16 birthday party was a surprise party for me, and it always brings back good and bad memories. The happy memories were that all my friends, including Audra, were there, and my cake was Garfield the cat, and we had a pinata, and I got a lot of presents. The only bad memory was that my step-grandmother asked me if I was a lesbian because she’d never seen me “go around” with a boy. And she wasn’t asking innocently…it sounded like a snide accusation. But, I didn’t know what a lesbian was, and by the time she explained it to me in a way my rather innocent mind could understand, I was so freaked out, it took me sneaking a shot of vodka or whiskey, I forget which,  to calm myself back down..

This isn’t my step-grandmother. It is just a keen likeness of how I remember her….

I never knew my step-grandmother all that well, having only met her a handful of times, so her opinions about me were not only not welcome, but downright insulting!  At first, I sat there with my ears turning red, knowing that if I opened my mouth, no good thing would come from it. But I wasn’t going to let this woman accuse me of anything when she’d only ever even seen me less than 5 times ever. It was the principal of the matter. I started off calmly… I told her I wasn’t allowed to date, so it wasn’t like I could bring guys around. But, I lost control of my calm exterior quickly, and I told her that I’d had a few boyfriends, none of whom I wanted around this f***** up, freak-show of family I was in. By the last words, I was semi-shouting, and standing up. I know. There was nothing Godly about my reaction. I was just hoping to have one nice birthday party, and it seemed like this step-grandmother just wanted to ruin it for me.  All in all, though, it was a pretty tame response considering  I had just found out that there was such a thing as same sex sex, which I evidently gave the impression I was into, by an old woman who I always thought was cold, bitchy, and stuck-up (because she always talked about how much money she had, and how she was going to be buried by her dead husband, not my grandfather). She never did anything for me to reassess my initial opinion of her, and that very moment, she actually proved what I’d suspected since the first time I’d met her..she was just a mean woman; she was attending my party to see if she could ruin it, nothing more.  Even now, I’m surprised by these kinds of people, who take some kind of joy in hurting someone else. It isn’t something I ever want to empathize with though. It is just pathetic to hurt anyone else for amusement or sport.

She was very taken aback at my language, as she considered herself a sophisticated, classy lady, and such language was beneath her breeding (and money, I suspect), but evidently was delighted with the proof that I was indeed trailer trash; as for my insulting our family, that didn’t bother her much as she didn’t much care for us “lesser” members of her new husband’s bloodline, of which she wasn’t part of. But, for my lack of respect when addressing her, she was just livid!! And she informed me that this was why she didn’t spend time with my grandfather’s side of the family. We were rude, crude, and disrespectful. I only heard rushing water in my skull while she lectured on, and in the end, she got the last word  because I walked off while she was still scolding me, heading to the bathroom to analyze what had just happened with this strange old woman, process lesbianism and its ramifications in my universe,  freak a bit about how much trouble I was going to be in when the old hag tattled to my mom about our little spat, and figure out how to steal a shot of vodka so I could go outside and enjoy my damn Sweet 16 birthday party.

I accomplished all of these things, and happily, I never saw my step-grandmother again. My mom was too horrified that someone thought one of her kids was a lesbian to care about anything else that was said or done.  I skated by with only a vague frown about my use of the F word, but I think mom was secretly a little glad someone had finally gone off on the haughty new wife. Mom and my aunt whisked me back to my pinata and the step-grandmother was gone when we went back in the house a little while later. Another thing I think I have my aunt to thank for.. …   :-) Best.Birthday.Party.Ever.

As a mother and a wife, birthdays have gotten much better. My kids never forget my birthday, though Chef has forgotten once or twice, but quickly made up for it. I don’t always get a gift, but it isn’t because no one could be bothered. Gifts don’t matter much to any of us.

But without fail, even with my own little family remembering and celebrating for years now, I’ve always waited to hear from my mom, my dad, or any of my brothers or sisters.

My mom has always forgotten my birthday for at least one day. Always. My dad, who had been missing most of my life, has never forgotten my birthday, but could usually not find me to tell me he was glad I had been born. When he had a way to call me, he always has. I know my dad loves me.

I’ve heard from my sisters on a few occasions (once or twice) over the span of 20+ years, and never from either of my brothers. And always, by the end of the day, I feel sad all over again that most of my childhood family cares so little about me, or even each other. We are all so very broken by that life, we can’t even turn to one another for comfort and encouragement in these new, better lives we’ve made for ourselves.

Almost a decade ago, Chef and I moved here to Tulsa from Texas, and we did something that we normally never did. We started to make friends. We started letting people into our lives. It was very unfamiliar to me, but Chef had missed having friends to hang out with, and I soon began to enjoy the interactions as well. And birthdays suddenly became less of a Waiting For Disappointment days, and more of a day to enjoy the company of friends and family who did actually give a crap that I had been born.

A few years ago, my motorcycle club sisters threw me a surprise birthday party…I literally had no clue they even knew my birth date, much less would bother to get the word out to all the girls, without me finding out!,  and gather for my party from not only Tulsa, but some smaller towns further away.  I was so surprised, I wanted to burst into tears. I did tear up, and then I laughed for the next couple of hours. The whole time I kept thinking about the only other party I’d ever had, and how it had been a surprise party too.

Only this time, there was no mean step-grandmother to make me feel ugly or unattractive, taking pleasure from embarrassing me…

Although there was an actual bisexual at this motorcycle biker chick party, but I already knew what that term meant; I had long ago quit judging other people’s decisions for their own lives, so I didn’t care that a bisexual was at my party; I love that bisexual, because to me she isn’t defined by any one thing about herself — good, bad, or whatever; and she would never do something intentionally to hurt someone else just for fun. And best of all, I got to wear a sombrero, and I totally rocked it. :-)

So, while birthdays started out kind of disappointing for me, they’ve gotten a fresh makeover in my mind over the last few years, and to turn over a new leaf, I’m not going to play the waiting game on a family that forgot me, and each other decades ago. Instead, I’m going to enjoy the people that are in my life now, and that includes all of you — my internet friends.

I don’t know that I’ve ever had any group of people pray for me and my family like you all, and it is without hesitation that I can promise you all know more about my life than any of my extended family does. And yet, you keep coming back, encouraging me, crying when I cry and laughing when I laugh. I appreciate all of you, and will never be able to express how all the kindness has helped me.

I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart!!!

– Bird

 

PBOL Vickey still had a picture from my party…I’m not photogenic, but I think the sombrero works. Proceed at your own risk….  :-)

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87 Comments

  1. Happy Birthday my dear. You’re lovely. You deserve to have a wonderful day. Remember this is the family we choose to be with. Sometimes that’s better than our real family. Take care and much love to you.

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  2. Well Happy Birthday to you Bird! I must admit, your step grandmother had it coming. Sorry everyone! Enjoy the day. It is a big deal. You’re here for a reason. Blessings Bird!

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    • Thank you! I imagine she never saw it that way. But, she never seemed happy to me, and I’m inclined to think I know why. When my grandfather died last year, I couldn’t attend the funeral, but my sister, who’s 5 month old daughter had just died, attended, and that same woman told my sister that she’d gotten fat… Who does this stuff???? No condolences on the loss of her child, just a shot at Elisabeth’s self-esteem.Just shoot me if I ever get that horrible to other people….

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      • Oh my goodness! What a terrible person. I’m so sorry to hear about your sisters baby. My heart goes out to her!. I can’t imagine why anyone would do that except a heartless person. It’s good you didn’t have to endure this woman any longer. Blessings come in all shapes and forms!. You will never be that kind of person. You have a lovely heart! Blessings Bird!

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        • Elisabeth’s baby was born with a severe heart defect, and twice she’s had step family members say or do some vile things to her. We aren’t close, but I did chase her new step mother off of Facebook over some of the stuff she was saying to and about my sister. I don’t get people like this at all….But I’m guessing they aren’t happy people to begin with. Thank you for the vote of confidence about my heart! I hope it is getting better as Jesus cleans it up!

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          • Good for you, chasing them off of facebook. You are so much better than you think. You, are not your problems. They don’t define you. Your heart does! Blessings to you Bird!

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            • You’re pretty spectacular yourself!!

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            • You’re pretty spectacular yourself!! lol…It is the one and only time I got personal on Facebook with the my full Friend list watching…It was creepy, but I needed her to go away. Who uses Facebook to berate a grieving young mother? I’m still amazed at the audacity!!

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  3. Happy Birthday Bird. Regardless of what anyone say, you should at least tell yourself happy birthday and celebrate yourself, I know God does.

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  4. this was a great story, and a happy birthday to you. I think for myself, it is the memories of being a kid, that hurts now as an adult. mom and dad and family are all gone, so no one remembers my birthdays. my daughter does a pretty good job but the boys may text me a message, so it is the memories for me of being special, made over, a party, just for me, that isn’t there anymore, plus i am getting to b so old now, but the kid in me still lives on

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    • I’m so sorry that story reminded you of what you are missing now. I wish there was something I could say. Maybe the fact that I don’t have a lot of good memories about growing up makes dealing with the loss of my family a little easier. I doubt it. I think life is just packed full with good and bad stuff, and we spend most of our adult lives sorting through it, organizing it, understanding it, and then learning from it and moving on to the next thing. I think that the older I get the more inclined I am to even remember some of this stuff, as I spent most of my twenties and thirties refusing to even address some of my thoughts about my childhood with myself, much less anyone else. Now, I feel like it is important to resolve some of these feelings, to heal, and to truly let them go. If you’d told me a year ago that I would write about half the stuff I’ve written about, I would have been positive you were crazy. But, these last few months have been one lesson after another, and now it feels like a floodgate has been opened. :-)

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      • Bird! don’t b sorry for one moment. I don’t have to read your story in order to remember what I miss on being old, I can do that all by myself within these four walls!!! We all have things in our lives that make us happy and sad, and I do miss some of my youth, but we all do. Be happy and enjoy this birthday. it only comes once!!

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  5. mike and brandy

     /  June 16, 2012

    happy birthday from Brandy and Me. mine was just the 8th so we have something more in common. may the Lord bless and keep you, make this day enjoyable and give you the gift of His continued presence in ALL the days that follow this special day of yours.
    mike

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    • Happy belated birthday, Mike! And thank you for the blessings and birthday wishes. Tell Brandy I said hi…

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  6. Happy Birthday baby Bird! I’M glad you were born! My birthday is on Tuesday, so happy birthday to us! You know, the thing I like the most about your post is that there isn’t a drop of you mourning the time going by. Ever notice people do that? That just bugs the hell out of me. I mean, you’ve had a very eventful year ;) But you’ve redeemed the time with your blogging, your mothering and your doing the best by Chef. This is just a guess, but I might be hearing a Heavenly “Well done!”
    Much love,
    Victoria

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    • I am so happy you were born too, and Yes!! Happy birthday to Us!
      I don’t care about getting older. It is one more step to the time when I finish what God has for me here, and I get to go home. Thank you so much for this beautiful compliment, and sweet birthday wishes! I hope God is saying “Well Done!” and not something else… :-)

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  7. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

    No matter how old I get, I will always love celebrating the day of my birth and shouting to the world how many years I have had the privilege of living on this amazing planet!

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  8. Happy birthday motorcycle gal! I’m glad you shared.

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  9. Happy Birthday Bird, you are a special one.

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  10. Happy birthday Cathy!

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  11. Happy Birthday!

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  12. If I’ve hurt you please forgive me.
    Happy Birthday!

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  13. Sis

     /  June 16, 2012

    Happy Birthday! Have some fun today!

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  14. A birthday is very important girl and I’m glad you were born! I agree that it’s time for you to do something for yourself! I pray this day will create only good memories for you. Smile, its your BIRTHDAY!

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  15. Grace

     /  June 16, 2012

    Happy birthday, Bird! Since I found you and your blog, I look forward to “hearing” from you and miss you when you’re silent. You brighten up the blogosphere and my little slice of life!

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  16. Happy Birthday!!!!

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  17. Happy Birthday Bird …Have an awesome day … :)

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  18. trish

     /  June 16, 2012

    Bird….

    Thank you for sharing..and for letting everyone know how well you do write. And as always I am here for you.

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    • Thanks for yesterday, Trish. It was nice to lean on you a bit, and I really, really appreciate you talking to Chef. You’re a wonderful friend and sister!!

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  19. Happy birthday! Happy birthday to you, we went to the zoo, we saw a big monkey, and we thought is was …. (insert name of any bastard that you would like to see in a cage and have people hurl peanuts at)

    What would you like for your birthday? If you could have anything?

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    • Mmmm…Anything?

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      • Yupp. ANYTHING

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        • Sweet. Then I’m going to think about it so I pick just the perfect thing… I don’t want to waste this golden opportunity..It’s like a genie in the bottle thing!!

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          • I doubt I’d fit in a bottle, unless it’s one that looks like this one:
            http://www.travelblog.org/Photos/3369527

            However, I think there’s a loophole in that wish thing, since I never said that you need to limit your wishes to one…. ;)

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            • OMG! Even better!! Strike the genie thing…You’re like my Fairy Godmother! I don’t want to rub huge bottles of beer in cold climates!
              Now that I can have whatever I want, I can’t think of one single thing! It isn’t an offer many people have ever presented to me. It is so unfamiliar!
              Ok. I would like you to email me privately what state you live in. I think I’ve figured it out, and I want to know if I’m right.
              But, if that is too much, don’t feel pressured. It is just a thought!

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  20. Happy Birthday Bird! I enjoyed this post yuo made me smile as always….

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  21. Happy Birthday Bird! Gosh, I’m sorry about your fam forgetting your birthday (sheesh) but am glad to hear that you’ve found friendship with some gnarly biker babes. And a party isn’t a party until a lesbian-accusation. Enjoy your birthday, spoil yourself, and know that you’re special just because you were born…today. And I love the Goonies pic of the evil step-grandmom. Tee hee

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    • lol..I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I guess you’re right. Lesbian accusations are pretty important to a fantastic party…But should a grandmother bring up the subject? That has to be crossing a line somewhere, don’t you think? Lesbian. Oh, please.

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      • Lol. You’re right. I’m glad you snapped back, sister! And glad that you snuck a shot!

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        • I have never felt bad about shoving back on that one. And the shot was really needed… My brain was flipping out, and the party was just getting started. Lol…now I don’t really remember the rest of the day, though…

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  22. I hope this day is better than happy–I hope you know, that you are a Child of the King, so have a beautiful day ‘princess bird” :)
    Praise Him for His love–
    Stephanie

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  23. I hope this day has been a beautiful one. You know you are very special to our Lord; I know how you feel in many ways, based upon what you’ve written here, and this has been one of the primary reasons that I’ve loved God with all of my heart. I needed Him more than most people do.. God bless you, Bird, and happy happy birthday, hon.

    Adrienne

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  24. Well Happy Birthday Bird …What a history you have as far as birthdays go…Your step-grandmother really was like Cinderella’s step-mother wasn’t she….In any case hope you had a nice day…Diane

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  25. Hmm. Missed your birthday. Sorry. But glad you were born.
    The reason I missed it was that I had a house full of people here, celebrating one of my sons’ birthday. Home-grilled hamburgers for 10, plus triple-chocolate cake and cookiesncream icecream. Also played Scattergories.
    If you’d been mine, we’d have done something similar for you.
    I understand the pain, but I’m also glad you’re beginning to realize it’s time to crawl out from under it.
    That might be the best gift of all.
    Love ya, gal.
    K

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  26. awww bird!!
    I’m so thankful that you were born..otherwise I wouldn’t know how awesome you are..and that my friend would be a tragedy!
    I know I’m a day late..please forgive me..I had a terrible headache yesterday and didn’t want to spend long in front of the laptop..but that’s not important!
    HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
    And you know..people forget my birthday all the time..and it’s sad..but I’ve realised it’s life..I stopped celebrating my birthday a little while ago when something dreadful happened at a party..but it’s all good!
    I always say, I’m one of those people that would throw a surprise party for someone else..but would never expect anyone to even do the same back for me..not that I do to have it reciprocated..but you know..
    But..like I started off saying..I’m definitely glad you were born..and I’m sure everyone in your life does too..I appreciate you for all that you are in your sincerity and openness.
    Your warmth for everything radiates and I pray that you had a lovely day ! xx

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  27. Hello you. Just checking in to see how you’re doing. I know this day probably sucks for you. I’m here if you need me. And I’m thinking of you and sending good thoughts your way.

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  28. Happy birthday!
    My one and only birthday party was a surprise party given to me by my youth group when I turned 50 and it really was a golden event.

    I hope you enjoyed your day.

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  29. Happy Birthday, beautiful!!

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  30. Happy late birthday Bird!

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  31. Glad to hear you had a great birthday this time. This is a story you should share more often as a lot of people are walking around with damaged spirits from things that happened to them as a child and they need the encouragement that they are not alone and that God can make all the difference in the life of one with a broken heart. He says His plans for us our good even when others are not.

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  32. This must be why I’ve been thinking about you so strongly the past few days. Happy belated! I hope it was as beautiful as your spirit.
    Holidays were always a mixed bag at my childhood home too. I’ve reinvented them in my adulthood and for me my birthday is about celebrating the gift of life and thinking about what I learned the previous year and hope achieve in the coming one. I don’t need presents, but it is nice to have people acknowledge that they are grateful to have me around, so in that spirit of things…
    I am grateful to have you around. You are one of the least judgmental Christians I’ve ever met and that’s refreshing to me. You are more like I imagine Jesus to have been during his life (you know if he rode a bike). I think you get it. Happy birthday!

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    • You brought me to tears with this comment. You have no idea how much I needed to hear just exactly what you said. Thank you so much!!

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      • You’re welcome. I meant every word. You’re a bright spot in this sometimes dark internet world, a genuine and kind soul. And after the rocky path you’ve traveled, the fact that you are such, is a wonder to me. You’re like a living example of God’s grace. And some of us need that example. So thank you.

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  33. Happy Belated Birthday, Bird! I know how you feel about birthdays, because I gave up on them along time ago. Being born around Christmas there was never enough money to make my birthday anything but just another day of the year. I can count my birthday cakes on 2 fingers…pretty bad for someone who will see 55 this year. As a child I would be handed a gift on Christmas and hear, this is for your birthday and Christmas, even from the brother who thought if he gave you a single stick of gum from his 24 pack that he had done something special and you should feel honored that he thought of you. As an adult my children and ex husbands carried on this tradition, and so I gave up on having anyone see my birthday as anything other than another day of the year. What this did do for me is to make me adament about making sure my daughter and grandson who have birthdays the same week as mine, special. My 2nd oldest’s birthday is the day after Christmas, and when she was younger and at home, I would stay up on Christmas and redecorate the house with balloons and birthday banners, and make sure she had a few presents wrapped in birthday wrap, and a nice cake to share with family and a few friends. With my grandson, whose birthday is the day after mine, I would nag my oldest daughter to always make his birthday special, even if it meant forgetting mine. She has tried twice to give me a birthday party. The first, she went into labor on my birthday at 2 in the morning, and spent that day in the hospital worried more about the fact that I wouldn’t get a birthday party again, than the fact that she was giving birth. The second time she planned a family party, which my sister-in-law completely ruined through her selfishness and jealous controlling attitude. I ended up in bed in tears, angry at how they had all failed my daughter by not doing what they promised to take care of for the party, leaving my daughter to try and make last minute changes to take care of it. My sister-in-law was suppose to arrive early to help set up and was suppose to get the cake. She did neither, and for no good reason. My husband was supposed to call a local Country and Western family dance and barbecue place to reserve it for us, and he didn’t…instead waiting until the afternoon of my birthday…it was all booked up. My daughter was frazzled and upset, and I was angry that it meant so little to others that they couldn’t even help her and left her trying to still make it special. Needless to say, my sister-in-law called everyone else selfish, and started a family fight, and I retreated to my bedroom to get away from it all. I have many daughters, and family alive, but to this day only my oldest calls to wish me happy birthday, and my husband just takes me out for my birthday, and lets me buy fabric to make things for the family, but in a specified amount that he feels is appropriate. Jk, always comes in and at least tries to fix me a birthday breakfast and makes me a card to say Happy Birthday, although the rest of the day she wants to go and play with her friends…lol. So now, I just focus on the fact that at least my heavenly Father is happy that I was born on that day, and shows that love for me everyday, even when my family doesn’t. Moms are often the ones forgotten each day of the year and only remembered on Mother’s Day, and once in a great while on their birthdays. Me I hold onto the fact that my oldest has tried, even when her sisters have forgotten or not cared at all. Oh well, what are you going to do…remember at some point they will find their lack of love for others will come back to them.

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    • Sometimes, to me, it seems like empathy is just a dying art. I’m sorry you know how this feels, and frankly, yours sounds even more disappointing. My kids may not be able to afford to buy me anything, but they all call me. And bless the one daughter who cared so much to try…That kind of sweetness and compassion is just beautiful to me!

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      • You know what Bird, having that one daughter who tried said more to me than any present she could have ever given me. But she did give me the best gift ever that first time…my first grandchild, and she wanted me to be in the room when he was delivered. I remember telling her about the pain that she would feel, and that it would all be forgotten the minute they laid the baby on her chest and she saw and held it. The moment she delivered and they laid that baby boy on her chest she looked up at me with tears in her eyes and said…Mama, you were right, I’ve forgotten all that pain…Isn’t he beautiful? It was a mother/daughter moment that made up for any birthday present she could have ever given me. So for her to even try again was something that I did not expect out of her, and my anger and sadness that day was more for the way others let her down, than for me, because they had let me down many times before and I expected it…but she hadn’t expected it and she was hurt by it.

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