A different kind of birthday…

“Girl’s, make Uncle M. a card. Today’s his birthday.” These are the only gifts we give now, gifts that can’t be returned, sold, or pawned.

We arrive at my Grandma’s house to deliver the cards to my fifty something year old uncle. How has he survived this long?

He isn’t home, but Grandma is busy preparing lasagna for his birthday celebration, one he will likely miss-he always does.

My girls shred the cheese as Grandma browns the meat. Fifty something years later and she still tries. She’s been to two stores this morning to buy fresh meat and a cake. Did I mention she’s nearly 92 years old?

Uncle M. returns home long enough to ask for his gift…he expects the same gift Grandma gives all those she loves on their birthday…a crisp $100 bill. She tries to push his request off, “I’m making dinner early.” Fifty something years and she still hopes for a different outcome.

“Jessica, move your car,” Uncle M. says in an almost giddy tone letting me know that there is a $100 bill heavy in his pocket.

I move my car and return to my Grandma and my girls, lovingly preparing lasagna for a birthday celebration that was planned with hope and love but will end in disappointment. This is how most of the fifty something birthdays have gone. This is life with an addict.

The smell of lasagna fills the air and handmade birthday cards lay on the table, unnoticed. This is birthday number fifty something.

Look at what you’re missing.

12 thoughts on “A different kind of birthday…

  1. My brother turn 50 this year, and he learned what he missed out on when my mom passed away and my dad moved halfway across the country. Addiction is a horrible disease that hurts more than the patient. Thanks for your thoughtful piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh Jess. This makes me cry. You know that I know this disappointment all too well – as does probably anyone else reading this. I doubt any of us dodge the heartbreak of this disease.
    I am so sorry for all of you – but especially your Grandma. I knew from the line “how has he survived this long?” – at 50? So young! I suspected then. And recognized the hope that all who love him will hold onto as long as he lives. Here’s hoping for a miracle – and sending love to all.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Such a raw piece laced with love and hope. This slice is a beautiful tribute to what you and your Grandma value – family, love and hope. You are passing this right on to your girls which is admirable. Prayers for Uncle M.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a brave and moving piece. It seems that so few of us move through life these days without loving someone who has been touched by the disease of addiction. Thank you for sharing the love that your family provides for Uncle M. Everyone deserves this. Your family is so remarkable to be there when it is so tough. Keep loving. Wendy

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow. This one has power. It fits perfectly with the Brenee Brown quote at the top of the page. I really like the way you hint, but slowly. I knew it was leading toward something like this, but wasn’t sure exactly how. I love the contrast between the gifts from your girls (unreturnable) and the gift from the ever-hopeful Grandma. This really is an on-going heartbreak. Thanks for writing this.


  6. A very honest piece Jess. It takes courage to write like this. I applaud your efforts. It evokes in me, the reader a sense of despondency and hope being wrapped in a struggle. It reminds me that we can’t make people learn, we only create the conditions under which learning me occur. your writing is all the more powerful because it provides insights concerning the human condition in all its raw and vulnerable manifestations…


  7. I’ve been trying to comment on this for a week. You write with such love for everyone involved. You still make him cards; you still help make the dinner; you still show up. And this is no simple love: you no longer give gifts that can be returned or sold; you are protective of your grandmother; there is frustration here. Still, your love for your grandmother, for your girls, for your uncle… it makes me want to cry. I hope that I am showing that same love for the addicts in my life.


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