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Signs Of Life

Columns by Pamela Majteles

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Red Balloons

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Posted by pam on January 14, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Originally published October 16, 2009

Reprinted with permission from Bay Area News Group – East Bay

I try to never forget a birthday. I have a little trick that helps me remember the birthday of everyone who’s near and dear to me.

My little trick is a big red marker. I use it to circle the birthdays of family and friends on my calendar, making the dates stand out. They also happen to look like red balloons. With one birthday after another on the calendar right now, I have to keep my eye on the balloons. I wouldn’t want one to get away from me.

There’s my niece who just started high school and has a birthday coming up. Once I hear what’s hip with high-schoolers, I’ll send it her way. Then come the birthdays of my other niece, my nephew, my other nephew, and my husband, all strung together like a crepe paper garland hung for a party. I intend to do something special for each one.

My father-in-law, David, also has a fall birthday. It would have been his 84th birthday, but he passed away last year. My family and I plan to go out to dinner and celebrate his birthday. It’s fitting because he was the exuberant host of more meals for family and friends than anyone can count. He was a Holocaust survivor, liberated from Dachau, who surely knew hunger. He relished sitting at the head of a table, showering his guests with food. As the food rained down, so did his pleasure.

Next comes the birthday of my grandmother Mimi. She died nine years ago at the age of 91. At last, I can see her birthday on my calendar without feeling a crush in my chest, knowing she’s gone. She was the original modern woman who managed both a job and family, working as the secretary in a farmers and ranchers credit union, while raising two children on her own.

My grandmother also had a passion for playing cards. Hearts. Crazy Eights. Gin Rummy. She taught them all to me when I was growing up. We used to play and play and play. For her birthday, I plan to pull out a game to play with my kids, as I shuffle through memories of her.

My dad’s birthday is also on the way, but my memories of him don’t include a lot of fun and games. He passed away when he was 66. It was my first experience dealing with the death of a loved one. At the time, I struggled with my grief and the pain of remembering a relationship that was full of holes. The following year, I couldn’t bring myself to remove his birthday from my calendar, making just another hole.

Over the years, I’ve learned to keep everyone’s birthday on my calendar, even after they’re gone. On their birthdays, I want to remember each of them. Otherwise, it would be as if they were never here. Just balloons that got away.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.

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