(The title of this post is a bit of a misnomer, since my husband and I got engaged on my birthday a number of years ago…)
Earlier this month, I turned 43. The older I’ve gotten, the less of a “thing” my birthday is to me. I’m incredibly grateful for my health and safety over the past 40+ years, and I know that in many ways, I’m a very lucky person. But I no longer get giddy about my birthday, looking forward to celebrating and opening presents. (Although, if you’re reading this husband, I do still love getting presents!) Actually, the thing I probably look forward to the most these days is not having to cook dinner on my birthday. In many ways, my birthday is just another day to me.
Birthday Gift #1
This year, however, my birthday ended up being very memorable – and not in any particularly great ways. For starters, our part of the world was stuck in a sharp and stubborn cold snap. For a couple of weeks straight, the daily highs struggled to make it into the teens, and overnight lows were well below zero. This kind of cold snap is not unheard of for upstate New York, but this one lasted for an unusually long time. And for someone who’s pretty cold-averse, this was not a great birthday gift.
Birthday Gift #2
We heat our house with propane, and we’re on our propane company’s auto-delivery list. This means that they estimate our usage, and deliver when they believe we’re getting low. Over the years we’ve been using them, I’ve been impressed by their accuracy at estimating our current propane level, and I’ve never been concerned about them letting us run out.
Unfortunately, they were caught way off-guard by this recent cold spell, and did not have the propane supply nor the manpower to deliver to all of their customers. Many people ran out completely, and their stories were all over the local news and Facebook.
We watched our tank level drop below 20%, then 15%, then 10%, and slowly into the single digits. We set our thermostat at lower and lower temperatures to preserve our remaining supply, for fear of running out completely and having our pipes freeze. On my birthday, the thermostat was set at 59 degrees.
Birthday Gift #3
In keeping with my birthday being just another day, I was scheduled to have my blood drawn for my annual lipid profile early that morning, and then to take my car in for an oil change. I had to fast for the blood work, so I just had a cup of black tea for breakfast that morning.
Just before the school bus arrived to pick my daughter up, we got into my car to pull up to the end of our driveway and wait. As soon as I turned the key in my car, the “check engine” light came on – and stayed on. “No problem. I’ll have the mechanic look at it when I get there,” I thought. However, as soon as I pulled out of our driveway, I could tell that something was wrong with my car. It didn’t accelerate with my usual amount of pressure on the gas pedal, and it seemed stuck in gear. Every time I stopped for a light or a stop sign, I had the same problem with it accelerating painfully slowly for the first 20 seconds or so. As a result, I dropped my plan to get my blood drawn, since this would’ve required me to park the car for at least a few minutes, and I was concerned about getting it going again to get to the mechanic.
I debated whether I should go the faster route to the mechanic – the highway – or take the local roads. Since the latter would’ve entailed a lot more stopping and starting up again, I opted for the highway. I stayed in the right lane the entire way, and watched every other car on the highway that morning blow past me as I maintained a steady 60 miles per hour speed. Did I mention that it was also snowing during this drive??
I made it safely to the mechanic, where I spent a couple of hours waiting, and periodically calling the propane company to check on the status of our delivery request. (I got a busy signal every time.) The mechanic finally told me that they’d need to keep my car overnight to do “more detailed diagnostic”. Thankfully, I had two granola bars stashed in my purse, which I devoured while I was waiting for them.
The mechanic is about a half hour from our house, and they do not have loaner cars for customers. Much to my relief, my husband was able to leave work early to pick me up. While he was driving, I called he propane company again, and magically got through to a human being after only about two minutes on hold. She told me that we were scheduled to receive a delivery the next day, which made me feel a lot better – but also concerned me since our tank was running on fumes at this point. So my husband and I stopped at a hardware store and bought a kerosene heater and a can to fill with kerosene. My husband set it up when we got home, along with our, three space heaters, to try to keep the temperature at a habitable level. By the time we went to bed that night – all three of us in our queen bed to keep warm – I was a nervous wreck. I was cold, snapping at our daughter, and imagining the cost of replacing our burst pipes and draining our flooded basement.
In the end, I received a belated birthday gift when the propane truck rolled into our driveway around 9:30 the next morning. I immediately teared up at the sight of it, and watched the delivery guy fill the tank, from inside. When he left, I raised the thermostat temperature, and shut off the smelly, kerosene heater. At that moment, I realized that, while I like to romanticize living “off the grid” in the woods somewhere, I’m definitely not cut out for that lifestyle.
Oh, and I got one more belated birthday present when the mechanic called that afternoon to say that a mouse had chewed through a sensor wire, which caused the difficulties with my car and the presence of the check engine light. For the bargain price of $260, I got an oil change and a new wire installed. Happy birthday to me!
(PS: I also received a number of lovely, real gifts from my family this year. They were a lot better than the “gifts” discussed here!)
How do you like to celebrate your birthday – if at all??
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