I’ve written every year about a birthday trip, something I do to not be in the house and to more or less force myself to see things that I normally would have ignored. Put bluntly, it’s a way to stop myself from lazing around the house all day.
So today I did some random things that were very non-birthday like.
I had to go get gasoline for the lawn mower and then mowed the lawn and edged it and hoped to get finished before the 105 degree heat wave hit. (Farenheit. Though Celsius might make it look less painful) My oldest daughter came home and informed me I “need to calm down. It’s your birthday!” This came, of course, after the lawn and doing a couple loads of laundry.
But, as I told her, it doesn’t wash itself. She then informed me she’d bought me doughnuts instead of a cake . . . and that I needed to eat them, diet or no diet.
But as much as I did a few little things for myself, like finding a used copy of What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits and downloading a new song from a new artist I’d never heard of, randomly, that fit my musical tastes (which, yes, I know, are all over the spectrum) I called my middle daughter, Hannah.
Hannah, you see, was one of my greatest birthday presents. She was born on my birthday, July 1st.
Hannah Andrews Manoucheri was born on July 1st, 1999. A year before the calendar marked a century’s changing. (Yeah, I know, the strict fact-checkers will say the millenium ended when we hit 2001. Sue me, it’s symbolism) Hannah was supposed to be born the day prior. In fact, we’d even gone to the hospital, Andrea, my now late-wife, had gone to the hospital to be induced. Unfortunately, what they considered a “great new drug for labor induction” caused Andrea to hyper-contract and she ended up in horrible pain for roughly 14 hours and then had to be rushed into an operating room. The surgeon thought the epidural was strong enough, but Andrea began to feel the cut of the scalpel. They increased it . . . and she still felt it. Eventually they put her under with Nitrous and she was asleep.
The birth was like and episode of M*A*S*H. Andrea’s organs were arranged on her belly somehow. After they got Hannah out they took the baby away, but I couldn’t leave. Andrea’s hand was clamped to mine…tight, and I watched my baby daughter hauled away to the incubator. It was then I heard the doctor curse and saw blood . . . everywhere. Andrea began to hemorrhage on the table and bleed out. She nearly didn’t make it.
Hannah was the baby I spent the most intimate time with after birth . . . and the baby who spent most of that time trying to squirm away from me to get to her mother. Hannah was released from the hospital before Andrea who, because of her organs being exposed to every and anything, ended up with a horrific post-operative infection. She was in the hospital for a couple weeks. Then she came home unable to bend, use her stomach muscles, none of it. In those first few weeks, my wife was on Intravenous Antibiotics while Hannah contracted RSV. The virus was so hard on an infant’s respiratory system that I had to give her albuterol treatments every 3 hours. Her breathing would get better, she’d eat, I’d change her, and then do it all over again.
Through the years, Hannah and I shared a birthday. It was her present to me, as well, as I didn’t really care about getting older. Still, she had the childlike enthusiasm for the day that was
infectious . . . and I celebrate the day more for her than for myself most the time.
The last 3 birthdays Hannah has spent in Nebraska with my folks. That’s out of necessity, mainly so I can work every day, but I’ve always managed to get her a present and have it sent there. This year, every phone call, every day, had her ask “hey, Daddy Bear . . . guess what’s in 10, 8, 5, 3, 2 days?” I love how much she loves waiting for it.
The days when we gave Hannah ten million things and had money that we could but shouldn’t have thrown away are gone. The gifts are smaller, sure, but they mean a lot more. Hannah got a gift that’s part fun but mostly necessity . . . but loves it nonetheless.
While I spent my birthday weekend with my oldest daughter, walking through San Francisco, we called the other three kids anyway, looking out across the Bay at Alcatraz, and loved hearing of their rural adventures.
I had Hannah open her gift while on the phone . . . then Abbi and I had dinner and went to a movie. But Hannah . . . she’s got so many more birthdays, so much special time ahead of her.
At the end of the day, every year, she’s my favorite birthday present.