Yesterday was my husband's birthday, and we celebrated in typical somber fashion. The mentality of "one is born, suffers, and dies" was so palpable in our home that it felt as if a dark cloud had sunk its way into our living quarters. We began the morning with coffee, cards, and gifts. Sarah, our youngest, creates hand-made birthday books with beautiful photographs of treasured moments from our past, messages of hope and love, and poems flowing with words that caress and soothe. Anna, our soon to be betrothed daughter, gave her father a Jewish Zodiac shirt. It turns out that Ilkka, born in 1948, is the Year of the Bagel. The shirt reads: You're pliable and always bounce back, although you feel something's missing in your center. If this persists, get some therapy. Compatible with Schmear and Lox, Latke and Knish, not so much.
I had struggled with what to give my husband for a birthday gift for days, and finally settled on basic necessities: two pairs of corduroy pants, as replacement for the threadbare ones which Seymour, our cat, likes to use as scratching posts when they cover his daddy's legs. I bought my husband yet another olive-green shirt, having forgotten that I bought this same shirt three years in a row. And underwear. Here I confess, I was daunted by the various styles. Boxers, Briefs, or Boxer Briefs? As I held the package of Jockey Boxer Briefs in hues of gray and navy blue, I had a fleeting image of my husband in his late thirties and early forties, and while debating whether or not to purchase the underwear, recalled how jealous I felt whenever women in love with him would try and snatch my husband away. One lovesick string player even climbed the pear tree in our backyard to catch a glimpse of him, just to make certain he was alone in the house!
After dinner, which had consisted of a steaming bowl of cabbage soup (as in our late years chewing may become increasingly difficult) and plateful of home-made cookies by two of Ilkka's precious students, the phone rang. An unknown number was displayed on the caller I.D. I picked up. The voice of a renown investigative journalist, in cryptic style, reported the name of the person, a big-wig from the Eastside, who might be responsible for having at one time, but unsuccessfully, removed our blog posts from all search engines, beginning with my obituary on the late Mark Paben. This message was followed by a hang up and dial tone; birthday Finnish style, indeed.