I am terrible at remembering birthdays.
It’s an awful flaw — right up there with neglecting thank-you notes — but when it comes to remembering dates, my brain is like a board that is void of magnetism, and the numbers are all made of metal.
Truth be told, I’ve even forgotten my own children’s birthdays a few times — and the oldest is only 7. It’s happened at the doctor’s office, or the pharmacy, more than once. When the doctor/pharmacist asked me quickly, “What’s his birthday?” I knew the month right away, but it took me a minute to figure out the year. Can you imagine that conversation?
“Ah, yes, it’s um … 2010,” I said. “No, wait, sorry, I’m wrong. Let me think. No, it’s 2011. Yes, that’s it. I’m sorry. Is that right? I have too many dates in my head.”
The reality is there are very few dates in my head; as I said, they have a hard time sticking. It is supremely embarrassing.
It’s the worst for my middle child. I can generally remember the year my oldest was born, and I can count back for the year my youngest was born, but the year my middle child was born is kind of a blur.
When my children were younger, we celebrated their birthdays on whatever day was most convenient. I figured as long as they got to play and have cake and presents they wouldn’t really care. What is time to a 3-year-old, anyway?
I have a secret fear that one day I will forget my husband’s birthday. When we first got married, I repeated it over and over in my head so I wouldn’t forget, and I asked him a few times to make sure I had the right day.
I pretended I was joking, but the first few times were for real.
Cat’s out of the bag now.
Anyway, I know my mother’s birthday is in October and my dad’s birthday is in November, but for the life of me I cannot consistently link the day of the week to their honor.
In times past, I’ve gathered the birthdays of all of my family members in one place and written them down in a calendar, or scheduled them into my phone so I could call them on their special day, but I hadn’t gotten around to doing that yet this year when October rolled around.
My mother was gracious when I narrowly missed her birthday and it casually came up in our conversation.
“It was your birthday last week?!” I squawked, feeling like a most ungrateful child.
Then November came, and I was determined not to miss another parent’s birthday. I told myself, “Write it down!” But I forgot. Then I remembered, and I told myself, “Put it in your phone!” But I forgot.
I decided to call my parents just to say hi anyway.
“Hi Dad,” I said.
“Did you call to wish me happy birthday today?” he asked me brightly. He’s never been shy about applying a good old-fashioned guilt trip when the opportunity presents itself.
“Uhhhhh,” I said, the wheels of my mind turning ever so slowly. “It’s today?”
As it turns out, it was, and it wasn’t.
My grandmother Fleeta, who died before I was born, was tricky when she wanted to be. It’s something I’ve suspected for a while, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until my dad told me about the day he was born. His birthday is a story in and of itself — a story for next time.
At the end of the conversation, I hung up the phone and vowed to call him back on his birthday, again. I told myself, “Write it down!”
But, wouldn’t you know, I forgot.
Amy Choate-Nielsen is a full-time mom and part-time writer. She spends her days at the park and her nights at the computer. She writes about family history and her quest to understand life while learning about her deceased grandmother Fleeta.