V and I went to a movie tonight and ran into another couple we know who were seeing the same one. Afterwards we joined them for coffee–and found out it was the husband’s birthday today.
That could never happen with me. Maybe it’s because since cancer I feel so lucky to get every additional year of life—but I require a little more attention. A little more celebration. At minimum— a birthday cake.
It could be a guy thing. V had his birthday recently, and I think we went to a movie that night, too. He was perfectly content. And even though in theory it should be his right to have a low-key birthday, I find that difficult to accept. No matter what he says. Somehow I still feel pressure to celebrate. I’m always glad when it’s over because there is no greater challenge than figuring out a birthday gift for my husband.
There was one time I got it right. Years ago, we had a tradition for his birthday: a mystery golf game. V is obsessed by golf, and we live on the Monterey Peninsula which is a golf mecca. So every year, I would tell V where to show up on his birthday. And he would find a mystery partner waiting to play with him. It was always someone he’d never played with before.
This went on for a few years until the year I came up with the ultimate idea for his mystery partner: Me. He would never suspect because I had zero interest in golf and had sworn never to learn.
So a few months before his birthday, I started taking golf lessons on the sly. I didn’t expect miracles; I just wanted to play 18 holes without holding up the play of everyone else on the entire course.
This was not as easy as I thought. Hitting that little ball was so confounding there were days when I felt like giving up and buying V a sweater. But I stuck with the lessons and by the big day I was ready. I arranged for another couple to make a foursome–and let them in on the surprise.
It was a spectacular surprise. V approached the first tee, looked around for his mystery guest—and I leaped out from behind a bush. The shock of seeing me was enough to throw off his swing. But it was a far greater shock to him–and to me—that I actually played 18 holes.
My learning how to play golf represented more than the moment—it had future potential. We could have something to share, bonding as a couple and being out together in nature. It was a birthday gift that could keep on giving.
It was truly the perfect birthday present—but it did present a few problems.
For one thing, I knew I could never come up with a gift to top that one. And I never have.
The bigger problem was that this took place almost 10 years ago—and I have never played another round of golf again.