It’s all in the cards
On my 30th birthday I went out for traditional free birthday meal with my dad and my sister in Fargo, North Dakota, as we had with some arrangement of family members for many birthdays. When you share the same birthday as your dad, there are so many things you can do to celebrate that you both enjoy.
This year was different. My dad had all kinds of unexplained health and mental issues in the past 2 months. He had gotten fired from his job, told people he was a millionaire and would forget things he said or did. He drank even more at night than he used to. He sold our house and bought another one, assuming my mom would follow him. She did not. I had read him an intervention letter. He didn’t talk to me for a month. He told my sister he would buy her a house. He told me he would buy me a dog.
And there we were, eating our lunches, pretending things were ok.
He handed me a hallmark sleeve with a card inside, except he had never taken it out since the day he bought it. The card was still outside of the envelope. It wasn’t signed, and there was nothing inside.
This was a great analogy for my life at the time, although I didn’t realize it then. At that time it just proved to me my dad was crazy.
My dad wasn’t ok; I wasn’t ok. I had been trying to get health insurance so I could seek help for my eating disorder for months. A girl at grad school had announced to our practice therapy group that I was anorexic and shouldn’t be allowed to stay in the program. I was afraid, afraid of failing, of losing everything and pretending to be fine all the time. My mom was depressed and overwhelmed. I tried to find a balance between helping her while still keeping my sanity. I didn’t know what the next decade would bring. Would things work out? Would I get healthy and get a job in higher education that I would love? Would I get me own house one day with a dog? Would I get out of North Dakota again and back to a place I loved in Oregon?
Ten years later, I woke today on my 40th birthday at a cabin in the woods in Central Oregon, by a lake and surrounded by tall pine trees with my dog.
Later today I will hike, drive back to my house, and go to work tomorrow at a job I love at Oregon State University.
And the birthday cards and well wishes I receive today, will not be hollow or empty, but filled with love that will carry me into the next decade with grace and wisdom. Here’s to year 40. I’m ready.