On August 31, 2017, I was doing what I did every year on my birthday: I was at the Transplant Center.
I would get my blood work, check my vitals of blood pressure and weight, review my medications, and hold on to every hope within me that my kidney beanies from my second kidney transplant were still going strong. Going on 23 years later with this second transplant and I still hold my breath that I can continue celebrating birthdays, being with my family and friends, taste and savor all the beauty and ugly of life, and just making the most of every single moment.
I am not sure when this birthday tradition began of going to the transplant center. Traditions are a funny thing. Traditions kind of creep on us and we just keep on keeping on with them not remembering how they started but always wanting to make them last forever out of safety, peace, comfort, and because we need some sort of ‘glue’ with family and friends that we love and hate and everything in between. I am sure this birthday tradition began around the time that I started to go to the Transplant Center alone and particularly without my father who regularly accompanied me. That must have been at about 20-years-old.
So, every birthday, I sat for nearly two hours in the waiting room. For these two hours, I reflected on all the birthday traditions, like Carvel birthday cake that has slowly transitioned to traditional creamy and fruit-topped Chinese cakes or rich French cakes and a delicious dinner at a restaurant of my choosing with my father and stepmother. My mouth watered thinking of the divine food that I was going to dig into later that evening when I received a text message from a worried friend who said: “Are you OK? Why are you at the transplant center? It sucks that you are there on your birthday.”
Taken aback, I immediately responded, “Being here at the transplant center reminds me that I am celebrating another birthday alive and kicking it and living it up. 35 and alive.”
I know many who are depressed, anxious, stressed, and whine about getting older. I know many people who stop celebrating birthdays after a certain age. I’ve had people say to me: “You stop celebrating your birthdays when you are old and useless,” or “Getting older is just a pain in the ass. There is nothing good to getting older.” My response: “Getting old and older is a privilege that so many wish to experience that do not get the chance to.”
I’m not sure when the fun, laughter, joy, and thrill of birthdays ends for many people. Birthdays seems to hold a much different meaning and thought of very differently when younger than getting older. For many, birthdays are a scary and painful reminder or getting older and even closer to death. For me, birthdays and all the traditions laced with sweet cake, loving messages, and spending my morning at the transplant center hits home of how life is such a gift and everyday that I am alive above ground at 4’11” is the best and greatest of days.
What are some traditions that you have and keep? How do you feel about birthdays? Do you dread them or love and embrace them? When did the thrill of birthdays end for you, or maybe it never did?
Every day, I PARTYEVERYDAY, but I PARTY EXTRA ON MY BIRTHDAY.
Oh, and happy to report that I received the best and cleanest bill of health there ever was.
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,