When we got to the hospital I went inside to register on the computerized screen.
“Date of Birth?” the computer asked. It happened to be my 74th birthday and and when I typed in the date the computer came back with “Happy Birthday”
From a computer.
So much for not making a big deal out of my birthday.
An hour before I’d had to leave for my blood test and my husband said he’d drive me.
“I know you told me you didn’t want anything special but it’s your birthday,” he said. “We can to go the cowboy diner for lunch afterwards.”
It’s not that it’s a hard drive to this particular rural hospital that I have go to for this particular blood draw, it’s just a tedious and boring one so, knowing I’d enjoy his company I accepted my husband’s offer.
Besides. Lunch at the cowboy diner sounded perfect.
Inside the lab the phlebotomist, who looked herself like she’d had only about 16 birthdays, was waiting for me.
“Date of birth,” she asked routinely.
“Oh, I’m so sorry you have to have blood drawn on your birthday,” she crooned when she noticed the date.
“It’s okay,” I told her.” I’d had lots of birthdays and they weren’t such a big deal to me anymore.
I don’t think she believed me though because after she painlessly drew no less than 18 vials of blood she smiled and said she hoped my birthday turned out to be a really good one.
She had a point, I told her. “At my age, the quantity of my birthdays don’t matter to me so much as the quality.”
When we got to our booth at the diner I teased my husband that I know we didn’t eat meat any more, but with all that blood drawn I sure would love to order a hot dog.
“I wouldn’t exactly call hot dogs meat,” he teased back and we laughed.
“But you’re the birthday girl,” he added. “You can order whatever you want.”
Birthday “girl.” How sweet of him.
“Happy birthday, honey” the waitress said, having overheard us. “How about for desert I bring you a piece of birthday pie to share. On us.”
Which is exactly what she did.
When we were finished she showed up at the table with what turned out to be just about the worst piece of hard, over-sweetened coconut cream pie we’d ever tasted. Sticking lopsided out of the top of it was one little bent birthday candle that looked so forlorn and so — ridiculous, I almost laughed.
But I didn’t.
Because, when she came with the pie she brought with her the other three waitresses in the restaurant and they all stood around the table singing Happy Birthday — and they weren’t shy about it in the least — and other patrons in the restaurant sang along and my husband sang along and for some touching, old fashioned, simple reason it all choked me up.
I clapped and laughed and thanked them and almost hugged them all and they were all clapping and laughing too and that was when my phone rang.
“I’m so sorry ma’am but, I need to draw three more vials of blood.”
I just knew it.
“It’s okay,” I told her. I was only around the corner having a piece of pie and she actually remembered and said that she was so sorry ma’am that I had to come back on my birthday and all — and I could tell right through the phone that she meant it. She really meant it.
After I had the second blood draw and got back out to the car my husband took a side road back home which brought us into desert hill country through old ranches and tall grass and distant views of snow capped mountains.
I sat back in the passenger seat and looked around me.
The sky was blue. The weather was balmy and the scenery was beautiful. The second blood draw was as easy as the first and where in the world do hospital computers and phlebotomists both wish you happy birthday and waitresses do such a sweet and just plain kind thing as to sing happy birthday to you anymore?
It turned out that I’d had one of the best birthdays ever.
“Thank you, honey,” I said to my husband and he asked for what and I said for offering to drive because it was my birthday and for telling me that I could eat a hot dog if I wanted to and for actually trying to eat that terrible piece of coconut cream pie with the one little candle in it and for singing right along with all those waitresses and for taking back road home instead of an Interstate highway.”
“Thank you for it all, I said, and told him what I’d said to the phlebotomist earlier that day.
“The quantity of my birthdays don’t matter to me so much anymore,” I’d told her. “It’s the quality that counts.”
He reached over and, in his characteristically tender way, squeezed my thigh.
“That’s my birthday girl,” he said.
Author Bio: Carmelene Melanie Siani
Carmelene writes stories from every day life and how life itself offers lessons to help us grow, expand, and put our feet on higher ground.