Happy Birthday to my husband who is in Afghanistan today which is phew for me because as usual I forgot to buy a birthday present. Actually, no, I didn’t forget. I put it off and then it was too late, which happens every year because the only gifts for him are obscure history books about World War II and he’s already read all the obscure books that exist, I believe, and he's been reading them over and over since I met him 12 years ago, starting each book at a random page in the middle and reading from the middle to the end, and then---if he likes the end of the book--flipping back to finish the beginning. That’s not the way I read books, except for maybe poetry books or the Bible, so perhaps it is the same I hadn’t thought of that until now. And suddenly, we are kind of alike. The first time I handed him a piece of my writing he started in the middle and read to the end, and then he flipped back to read the beginning. (I pretended not to notice but I noticed.) That was a relief because I knew then that he liked my writing, and so we could get married.
And we did.
My love--- everything is not the same without you here on your birthday, but how the wind is making the afternoon so clear and bright. In Central Park all the fathers are pushing strollers past me, and herds of high school boys run like gazelles to the bridge where the birdy-girls stretch and flutter on the wrought-iron fence. A school choir congregates further south, practicing hymns by the edge of the pond. People are walking. The skyscrapers are prominent. It is beautiful, beautiful.
It was not always like this. The years in Sudan and Congo, for one. And the times that those 10 pound babies came to us from the moon, we didn't get a word in edge-wise! But we have not even passed our zenith yet; already the days are getting longer. Anyone who has been married knows that it's a continual dance. We spin and twirl and meet up and fall part. We catch a glimpse of each other one year, and the next year we waltz. Anyone who has been married knows that no one really knows about marriage. Well I know one thing: when I re-wrap your sweater for Christmas by accident, you pretend to be surprised.
So look, I've been thinking. I know I'm the best wife in the world. And a great cook, and also the best lover really---like Paris France in the afternoon or 20 virgins in heaven every day. I am an excellent & disciplined writer, we know that too, also very fiscally responsible. I recycle. My driving skills are superior---all this we know and yet it is still true isn’t it? That even a day without you, I could not live.