Today is Peter’s seventy-seventh birthday. We don’t do “hoopla” anymore, primarily because he doesn’t like fuss, and also because he forgets not only his own day, but mine and every other family member’s too.
Seven years ago was the last time he agreed to a family dinner. I remember because I’d fumed and worried about the present I’d decided to give him: the option of going to the Humane Society to rescue a dog or to a kennel to pick out a GoldenDoodle puppy.
Was I crazy for even thinking of another puppy? Yep! Was I surprised when he picked that option? Nope.
It was a milestone birthday, his seventieth. Even though I favored a rescue, I knew he’d had his heart set on having a GoldenDoodle since we’d first seen one the year before.
This year I went downscale. I found an inexpensive — make that cheap — watch that lights up at the press of a button. Over the years I’d given him a Mickey Mouse watch to feed his big-eared rodent fixation, plus at least three expensive watches. Somehow he managed to break them all beyond repair.
Now, though, he is obsessed with knowing the time even though he can’t remember it for more than a few seconds. He is now, and has always been, late for everything. He can’t remember that the “new” cable box we’ve had for a year doesn’t have a digital clock on it like the old one did. When he looks at the little window showing the channel, he thinks it shows the time, even if it’s a bright, sunny high noon outside and the channel number reads 838.
This new watch was made in China. I scratched that off the box, as I did the $14.99 price sticker. I “wrapped” it in a bright green envelope, put a years out-of-date birthday stamp on it, and hid it under the newspaper. When he came downstairs I heard him say Oh! when he uncovered the present. He came to me here at my desk and said, “I didn’t even know it was my birthday.”
“Really?” I said, though I was already pretty sure he hadn’t remembered. He shook his head. “Not even with my message on your dry erase board and the reminder on your calendar that’s been there all month?” I said.
“What calendar?” he asked.
“The giant white one on the kitchen counter.”
“No, I’ve never seen it.”
“Well, Happy Birthday!” I said.
“Now I have no excuse to be late, do I?” he asked, looking at his wrist.
“Yes, you do,” I said, “because you’ll forget to look at your watch.”
Later Peter came to tell me he and Nobby were going for a walk. “Won’t be long,” he said.
“I hope not, you need to help shovel snow. Do you have your watch on?”
“What watch?” he said. When I sputtered he laughed and pulled up his sleeve to show me that he did have his new watch on and hadn’t forgotten about it…yet.