And Father's Day, since they were both on the same day this year.
Very early this morning, our time, we get a call from Katie in Italy. She's my sister-in-law ... lives in Italy because her husband is in the Navy. I've known her since she was three years old. I always think of her as Robin's little sister, but our relationship goes beyond that. When she had troubles at home, she came to live with us, and I was a bit of a surrogate father for that time (although I was more a spectator to Robin's surrogate mothering). Katie usually remembers to wish me a happy Father's Day for that reason, and I very much appreciate it. She married John on my birthday in 1998 ... I am not very good at remembering the details of other people's lives, but I remember their anniversary because I turned 45 that day. Happy Anniversary, guys!
Next, Neal and I went to the Giants game, where Jason Schmidt pitched a one-hitter and Edgardo Alfonzo hit a grand slam homer, giving the Giants a 4-0 victory. I usually try to get to a game on my birthday if the Giants are in town, and was esp. happy to have my son with me on Father's Day. He's a great son!
When we got home, we went to Juan's for dinner, accompanied by Neal's wife Sonia, her brother Alex, and our daughter Sara. It was the usual Juan's meal, which means it was just fine and everyone was so nice. It was such an ordinary choice for a birthday dinner ... Robin and I eat there once or twice a week, so you'd think there was nothing special about it. But there WAS something special, something even a hermit like me could appreciate. I was with my family, but I was also with my friends at Juan's. They were so kind, stopping by to wish me happy birthday, and it's just a good feeling to go to the same place for 25 years, they know you, they take care of you. It was the right place to be tonight.
After that, we went back home and had a selection of delicious dessert treats. After watching "Baseball Bugs," Neal, Sonia and Alex left ... after that, Robin, Sara and I watched an episode from Season Five of Buffy, during which Sarie gave me a foot massage. She's a great daughter!
Then she left, and Robin and I watched Queer As Folk. It's one of the most unfair plot threads of all time: Brian Kinney, all-time gay stud, gets testicular cancer and has to have one of his balls removed. Then the chemo cures him, but he can't get it up. Brian Kinney, impotent ... Job never suffered more. So, what happens to finally allow Brian Kinney to rise to the occasion, as it were? His revolting mother comes by to explain to her son that God gave him cancer as a warning ... God wants Brian to quit fucking men. Brian chews his mother out ... and, voilà, a boner! (My favorite part in all of this is when Sharon Gless's character, the mother of Brian's best friend, goes to church to pray for Brian and begins by saying "Brian Kinney ... I imagine you've heard of him.")
So I try to digest my day ... spending time with my kids and some extended family members, watching a ball game, enjoying a dinner, watching teevee ... it's been a very simple day, a good day because while I want everyone to pay attention to me 24/7, I actually don't like my birthday because 1) people pay attention to me, and 2) I hate getting old. Yet this day, with its low-key energy, felt right. And while it seemed a bit odd that the closest thing I had to a friend was the workers at the local Mexican restaurant, I know some of my truest friends will be over tomorrow for the Elvis thingie. Still, you wonder if you're having an impact on anything.
And it was then that I checked out my blog, and saw the many lovely birthday greetings, and saw my sister Chris remembering our father ... and then there was that amazing piece from David Shapiro, who grew up down the street from me on Biglow Drive in Antioch, who I hadn't thought about much if at all until very recently when he posted a comment to the blog, and here he is on Father's Day, writing such a fine comment about his own father, a man I still remember, and it was so right, and I understood that even something as solipsistic as a blog can reach out to people, can force us to confront each other in a good way. So thank you David for sharing, and thanks to everyone who made this a fine birthday.
P.S. And I suppose I should mention in passing that this is the 20th anniversary of perhaps the best birthday I ever had. It was during our first-ever trip to Europe. We spent my birthday driving across France, "we" being Robin and I, along with Robin's sister Tami and her then-fiancé Peter. I turned 31 that day, and I tried to play up the "oh, don't worry about me, I don't care about birthdays" angle as we drove and drove and drove ... we'd started in the south, perhaps we even started in Andorra, I can't remember anymore, but we drove and drove and drove, and at one point in the late afternoon we stopped at a road station and had, I don't know, bread and water or something like that, and back in the car we drove, and I thought to myself "oh, this is such a crappy birthday, all day in the car and my dinner was bread and water."
And finally we got to some small French town, we were getting closer to Paris by this point, and we found a campground (yes, Steven camped in France), and off we went to find some dinner. We ended up at this restaurant, it was next to a creek or something, we ate outside and the ground was soft from the water and at one point my chair just sunk into the ground and there I was, staring up at the world. Peter spoke French like a native, which helped a lot. We ordered food ... I asked for an appetizer plate of meats, and out came an enormous basket of sausages and other meats ... and it was all for me, I was told to eat what I wanted out of the basket. Meanwhile, we're drinking lots of wine, and every time a new bottle would come out, Peter would ask our waiter to join us, and he's pour himself a glass and drink it, and after awhile, he seemed as drunk as we were, and he'd sit down at our table to drink with us, and eventually I couldn't take it anymore and I stumbled into the awful French bathroom to take a leak, and I had to wait while some guy finished ahead of me, and when he was done, he turned around to leave, and it was our waiter!
And by that point, I'd forgotten all about the bread and water, and I knew this was probably the best birthday I would ever have. We finished our repast and wandered back to our campground. I slept fitfully ... I don't get along very well with nature, after all ... and when I awoke the next morning ...
And at this point I should note that the French had this odd habit of using the occasional English word with an accompanying French word, like "le coca cola." It was funny to us, and we'd gotten to referring to everything as "le this" and "le that."
And so I awoke in our tent, and rolled onto something that felt kinda ominous, and it was a BEE!!! A dead bee, I suppose I'd squashed it in the night, but a BEE! Nature had invaded my sleeping quarters! And I freaked out, and started screaming at the top of my lungs, "LE BEE! LE BEE!" in complete terror.
As we escaped our tent and looked into the morning light, we discovered that we'd pitched our tent underneath a beehive. Le bee, indeed.
And so ended the best birthday of my life. And now you know why I don't like to go camping.