By Hans Ebert
It was my birthday yesterday, and as usual, she called to wish me Happy Birthday. But did she really mean it? You tend to think she doesn’t, and flip it off as her Christian politeness and just two hollow words that lead nowhere except for the awkwardness. “Hi, Happy Birthday!” Thanks. And now what? Where’s it leading? Nowhere new. It’s just one of those necessary niceties of life. At this juncture in my life, it’s unnecessary.
It’s a throwaway line said because it’s, well, nice, but it’s as flippant and void of emotion as the Beatles writing and recording, “(They say it’s your) Birthday”. That was probably just the caustic wit of John Lennon and his deep suspicion about people. It happens when you’ve been burned a few dozen times by being too damn giving. And forgiving. Trust issues arise. As for birthdays, and the importance placed on them, who cares? Really? It’s just an annual occurrence that becomes less important as the years go by.
And during these supposed special days, there are those sanctimonious witches of Eastwick from North of Westworld who pop up with all their bible studies to give them strength chanting that “That train”-meaning she- “left a long time ago”. Yes, she did, yes, she did, yes, she did, and I never stopped it running its course despite trying to make something come out of listening to marriage counsellors looking for the inner me. The inner me is in plain sight. Take it for what it is. Flaws and all. All that psycho babble was way “too Dr Phil” and American for me. There was never ever going to be an Oprah Eureka Moment when it suddenly all made sense. There was no free car underneath my seat. It was reading the play- the game- and coming up with the right answers to show “It’s not you, it’s me” excuses to keep that long train running. It’s always about trains. And boats and planes. And games.
One could have kept faking it, but for what? To live life with the guilt riddled hypocrisy of those with their Hallmark card advice, enjoying seeing the partnerships of others fail, and living a lie in their glass houses of loveless marriages knowing the husband has had the same mistress for decades, and who, in some cases, aren’t even living together as husband and wife?
Of course, all this cheating is conveniently forgotten as they take some warped thrill in liberally disposing advice to others. It’s therapy to heal their own deep-seated wounds and hide the naked scars. It’s not unlike all that “sharing” that goes on when climbing aboard to try and take those 12 Steps with Bill, which might as well be The 39 Steps. Now that was a great movie. But life is not a movie. Life is for real with a past, a present that’s the future, and a gradual and inevitable fade to black, often because of the offside meddling of others. More often than not, because of mistakes made by the two stars of this particular life play. But only one is always at fault. No one bothers to see both sides of the coin. That would be too easy.
This meddling of others into the personal lives has been the ruin of many a poor boy and girl and couple. But too many couples forget those “for better or worse” vows and allow the strays in and the meddlers to guide that train when everything could have been talked through by the only two people that had the solutions and answers. But this is seldom allowed to happen. Like assholes, everyone has an opinion, and one forgets to think for themselves. Honesty is replaced with a blur.
Birthdays. My mother never believed in them. Maybe having been born on her birthday after a Caesarean operation, and me popping out looking, apparently, like an eggplant, something she constantly reminded me about, had something to do with it. She seemed embarrassed about celebrating her birthdays. It was, to her, cheesey and a huge slice of phoniness. Maybe she was very right, maybe she was very wrong, but it was honest, and Billy Joel is still playing in my head. It’s probably why I grew up as an only child who never had a birthday party, nor received any gifts from my parents. None was ever missed.
One grows up not knowing about that part of life, and it must have led to a chain reaction to other aspects of life.
You never miss what you never had. It was the polar opposite upbringing of an American wife who came from a tight family unit with strong Christian values, where birthdays were to be celebrated.
In my family, birthdays were to be detonated. She would say she deserved a medal for putting up with me for as long as she did and all the weirdness and dysfunctional family surroundings going on around me. She was right. The Prince Of Tides had no hang ups compared to me. That medal is long overdue.
My old man was malleable. He simply wanted to be liked and went with whatever mother said- even when her Alzheimer’s had become full-blown dementia. He needed her even when she had no idea who he was and why he was at the foot of her bed when she was leaving us and massaging her feet and pleading with her not to go. She had other ideas. She packed it in and left. She wanted out. The drugs didn’t work anymore.
Everyone cried when she passed away, but why? She left a happy woman who had gone back to being fifteen. It was us left behind that had to continue down this long and winding road of false starts, dead ends and dishonesty. And all this social media isn’t helping- living alternative lives often under pseudonyms and sharing “stuff” with total strangers that’s totally irrelevant. It’s being sucked into a void of nothingness where priorities are lost in the Harlem shuffle.
Thankfully, we have our memories and the ability to be honest with ourselves when we put our heads on the pillow and the movie in our minds plays. We have no say in what the ending will be. It’s like dreams. And if in every dream, you’re still with her, and go into panic mode when she goes missing before finding her and normal transmission resumes only to wake up to reality, you realise who and what life’s priorities really are. And you carry them with you.
None of the reality of this dreamworld has anything to do these with Brangelina, or the Kardashians, The Donald, Crooked Hillary, whatever is “trending”, and all those Alan and Eleanor Rigbys who live in that faked out online world, where almost everyone is not what they put out there.
You realise everything that should have been said and done, but was never allowed to happen because of external distractions and allowing in all those who had no bearing on anything other than taking you away to where you thought you were happy and numbing one’s self when the fact is that even men bleed. Lennon and Dylan were never embarrassed to show this emotional vulnerability. It finally freed them from the shackles of society and a fractured past that offered no answers. It was a relearning period where they were saved by coming out of the other side being happier people.
Where many go wrong is reinventing yourself to be what you’re not just to be accepted by those new to your life until you go so far down that road that there’s no turning back. You become what you’re not and end up with a chorus line of users, losers, enablers, gypsies, tramps and thieves.
When those days have come and gone and the party comes to an end, there’s the boredom and habit-forming quasi world of “liking” and retweeting everything that has no importance because she’s still with you- in your heart and in your head. After all these years. And after all these years, we still cannot have an honest conversation- face to face, and kept between the only two people to whom any of this matters. What’s stopping this happening? Pride. Pride can be a real four letter word that doesn’t add up. It never has.
Maybe if we had the courage of our convictions to talk everything through before the downward spiral took place by allowing in those with their dime store advice, and their prescriptions to numb real feelings the love that was there- and is still there- would be alive and one would be together. That train never left the station. What left was the honesty.