Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Birthday Wish

[image: The last song of the Weavers' reunion concert]
Eight women came to my birthday dinner last night. As people drifted in, we upset the usual birthday order of things, and I opened bags of wonderful gifts, quite unexpected. My friends are multi-creative, every one, and made art for me, gave me fantasically embellished chocolates and a tiara and miniature bottles of fruit liqueur, giving rise to a fantasy of a fruit liqueur tasting party down the road. I saw how I can pin their handmade cards and the big banner Gini designed up on my study wall, and feel surrounded every day by friendliness. I want to start a rustic weaving with the little ribbons from the gifts and rolled-up tissue, and hang it on my wall, a work in progress.

Mozart's is a small, classy neighborhood restaurant where some of us come often, and know the owner. The tiramisu I ordered for our dessert came embellished with delicate chocolate flowers and a single small candle, so “Happy Birthday” was sung for the third or fourth time, with Mark, the piano player, obliging with a flourish. The restaurant was nearly empty last night, and we felt free to do a lot more singing throughout the evening, as Mark picked up on the fact that we sang along with the old songs - pre-Beatles you could say - and show tunes.

In between songs Mark played variations on a piece I always ask him to play, "I Love Paris," and once again I thought optimistically, Maybe I will get there. With a good transplant people climb mountains. Some people even travel on dialysis, though that idea frightens me - everything has to go just right, dialysis is a life-and-death matter, and you know things never go right. You feel more secure on home turf.

Mark went on to play everything French, which he thought included "Que sera, sera." That's a fitting place for me to note that as I blew out the candle ("Make a wish!") my wish came clear to me: May I accept whatever comes. I meant kidney failure, dialysis, no transplant, failed transplant. I'm afraid my future with this disorder is coming fast. I wish to accept whatever comes, the flu, fatigue, pain. To relax into the state of restfulness we call equanimity.

There was so much song and laughter last night, so much creative flow, and something else - a sadness as we sang “Good night, Irene” and I remembered my 65th birthday two years ago. Laurie took pictures there, too. Not long after that party, Betty died of a heart attack one morning after Sunday brunch. She was in her early fifties. A few months later Jean Levinson died painfully, of brain cancer. At Jean’s memorial service, the church posted Laurie’s photo of Jean at my party, wearing the furry leopard mask Gini gave me, all smiles. You get those moments.

Last night - maybe I already had this flu, or whatever it is - in the middle of all the laughing and singing I looked around our table. To my right, Terry, who nearly died three years ago of a heart infection, whose partner has Parkinson’s Disease. Across from me Laurie, chronic back problems and now whiplash. At my left my beloved neighbor Marion, who is eighty and lost her husband this year. I wondered who among us would be gone in two years, who else might die young, who would be missing from this gathering of friends in ten years, what it might look like in twenty years. I felt a simultaneous mix of joy and sorrow. Even now, the memory gives me chills.


  1. I was meaning to greet you on your birthday, but got caught up in my country's tragedy. But here goes.. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! May you live longer and enjoy each of those moments, good and bad. For life is definitely short..

  2. Happy Birthday, Jeanne! May your life be vivid, rich and full.

  3. Happy Birthday, Libran Comrade!

  4. This is one of the most inspiring birthday celebrations honoring a beautiful, wise woman. Happy birthday, Jeanne, and thank you for being a teacher to me.