Today is the first day of March and March is my birthday month (22nd day to be precise), so I told my wife this morning that if she thought about getting me anything for my birthday (which she usually does) then here’s a couple of ideas complete with plenty of time to get it right, so to speak. I was simply trying to be helpful seeing as how I’m somewhat difficult to buy gifts for. I’ve about decided I’m just difficult overall and the “hard to buy gifts for” piece is just an extension of the difficulty known as me. But to her credit she quickly said, “Tell me,” and I could see by the look in her eyes that in that moment I inched closer to my goal of being helpful. So I inched on.
“A pair of knee sleeves and a subscription to The Paris Review.” I blurted it out so fast I felt like little Ralphie when he tells Santa he wants the “Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!” Now my wife didn’t ‘splain me with a variation on “you’ll shoot your eye out,” but she definitely cracked a grin that I’ve learned means “Lord you’re weird. But go ahead, explain.” So, being-helpful-me proceeded to explain how knee sleeves provide compression but also increase blood flow and reduce pain and swelling in the knee joints both during and after such things as CrossFit workouts. I noticed in my 52nd year my knees talking to me both during and after CrossFit workouts, and I would only guess in my 53rd year for the talking to get louder. To my simple mind, knee sleeves would fall under that ever-evolving category of “self-care.” My wife gave me that same grin, so I proceeded to elaborate on gift option #2.
“I love reading articles in The Paris Review, but they inevitably make me sorrowful for about a third of the way through I encounter this message: Want to keep reading? Subscribe and save nearly 40%. I realize I should’ve already subscribed because I do believe in supporting quality literary endeavors such as The Paris Review, but you know me and my, well, difficultness.” Her grin widened assuring me I had indeed achieved being helpful.
On one level I have to agree with her. That combination of proposed birthday gifts is weird, there’s no way around it, and there’s probably a more apt word than weird but let’s leave me at weird for now. But on another level, I have to think she is at least somewhat aware that her husband of almost 30yrs now is, while exceedingly difficult, also a simple man who doesn’t ask for too much (although The Paris Review does sound a bit fancy).
Since I’ve made the initial sketch, I now have 21 more days to fill in the picture with very colorful hints like rubbing my knees while we’re enjoying dinner and saying, “Gosh, I sure could use some more blood flow to my knees,” and then at random times throughout the day whispering just loud enough so she can hear, “I guess I’ll never know how that Ann Beattie interview ends. Oh well.”
And while yes, my hope is that such Oscar-worthy performances will lead me to that shore where birthdays are happy, at my age I confess the greater gifts will be her grins along the way.