The celebration of birthdays, like Valentine’s Day, is another convention I work to my advantage or let others work it. In this instance, Sherry, my partner, wanted to use my birthday on March 4th as an excuse to demonstrate her love and care for me. I was all up for it, of course, but I wasn’t very smart about it. She wanted me to stay overnight at her home in nearby Anacortes on the 3rd but I said I couldn’t do that because that morning I needed to be home, changing the sheets on my bed, cleaning the bathroom and otherwise eliminating the clutter in preparation for my granddaughter and her husband who were to join us for my birthday dinner at a local restaurant and then stay overnight. Why I thought I needed the entire day to prepare for their visit escapes me as I look back on it, especially since Kornelia, my housemate, who was intending to help ended up, in fact, doing it all before I got home. But in any event, I unthinkingly declined Sherry’s invitation.
On Sunday, March 3rd, at the end of a wonderful evening over dinner with friends (and still in my state of nonchalance), I received a surprise phone call from Sherry, telling me with pain in her voice that something serious had happened to a close family member and she needed to talk to me. Hearing that pain, feeling the anguish, I wasted no time saying my goodbyes to my understanding friends and heading to Anacortes. Sherry insisted she was okay and that I didn’t need to drive all the way to her house but being a Pisces I was incapable of considering anything less. I had to be there to hold my beloved, to hear her experience, to walk it through with her and, of course, spend the night.
And’s that’s what I did gladly, with a full heart (and I like to think anyone one else would do in similar circumstances), listening how her sibling’s behavior Sunday afternoon triggered memories of earlier times, traumatic events into which she had been drawn as a child and even later as a young adult as she was struggling to make her own way. Hearing my beloved Sherry spill-out her story made me wonder how many of us ever survive. I know of others, close friends, most of whom are women, who have their own devastating childhood stories to tell, not only tales of physical abuse but as bad, if not worse, stories of damaging verbal abuse which have compromised their sense of self-worth. How do you ever overcome your mother telling you how much she hates you? How do you deal with a mother who leaves money on a table and wants you, a preteen, gone when she wakes up?
It was in bed that night holding Sherry tight against me and again in the morning’s first light, that it fully dawned on me how foolish, if not outright insensitive, I had been in declining Sherry’s warm invitation, not wanting to be with her at the very beginning of my special day! What better way is there, after all, to begin your birth day, of all days, then with the most loved and valued person in your life? I had really to look hard at my own slippage, my own lack of appreciation of the constant flow of gifts that come my way, particularly Sherry herself and the gifts she constantly brings to our relationship.
So it seems to be the case, that sometimes it takes an emergency event or a traumatic family happening, to jar us out of our sleep-walking, to wake us up. At least that’s what happened to me. It almost seems like a Greek play, the gods intervening to get this earth-tied being to become more god-like, to be conscious more of the time. The reason I’m taking the time here to reflect on this one instance is because this birthday morning turned out to offer more than I had ever thought possible between two human beings. I had always thought of the notion of “two becoming one” largely in terms of sexual union, i.e., specifically in terms of a man and woman experiencing orgasm simultaneously. I was surprised beyond belief yesterday morning that the sense of sexual union need not have anything to do with orgasm. At 92 years of age, my days of vigorous sexual sustainability appear to be over. What I was not prepared for was what I experienced in its place. Both of us, holding each other quietly, neither moving, I began to sense my body melting into Sherry’s and her body melting into mine, the two of us becoming one and along with it a deep sense of peace, The term that came to me at the moment was “Holy Contentment”. No other term seemed to fit. It was a comprehensive contentment, free of any worry or stress. After ten minutes or so, the sensation shifted but there’s no question in my mind of the reality of that experience. Sherry and I had “become one”. We had experienced sexual union of the highest order, something I had never experienced before nor even thought possible. The memory of it sticks with me and has changed me in some fundamental way. Certainly, I see Sherry in a whole new light. We are connected now in a different, unique way, She has become more dear to me than I thought possible, deep though my love for her already is. It is an extraordinary time, all brought about because of a traumatic event outside us, an event through which we have been linked to each other in a new way.
To finish off the day in proper fashion, Sherry treated my granddaughter Nora, her husband, Fabio, and Kornelia and me to a wonderful birthday dinner at the Oyster and Thistle restaurant right here in LaConner which is on the original site of the Nell Thorn restaurant. So it was like old times, the 5 of us gathered around a cozy table in the smaller dining room off the main dining room, the same room the Skeele children had celebrated their mother’s birthday in many years before. I took all that in as I experienced Sherry’s generous spirit and the delightful interplay among us as we talked about the change, personal and social, that has taken place such that Nora and Fabio, though legally married, feel comfortable being away from each for long periods, he chasing snow in Montana and she pursuing a career change to interior design in Hawaii, something I could never imagine myself doing in the 1950’s when I was first married nor now in my new partnership with Sherry. We sang out the evening’s close with a rendition of the customary “Happy Birthday” while I made made a wish and blew out the single candle stuck in a mound of whipping cream covering a small, rich dish of chocolate mousse. A sweet day it surely had been!