Happy Birthday


Miss Cathy’s birthday was on the 23rd of last month; it was a god awful, hot Saturday so I told her that I would take her out for a celebration lunch the following Monday. The week ahead was predicted to be hot, but not the African heat we were experiencing. I know that she doesn’t particularly like going out to restaurants but every now and then she’ll go and she’ll actually enjoy herself. It’s a trade off really-she doesn’t like to go out to eat and I don’t like the places that she picks when we do go.

I know that she likes the “restaurant” Ruby Tuesday (a glorified McDonald’s with table service if you ask me, but hey, she likes the joint) so that’s where I planned to take her. I asked our upstairs neighbor, Ron to join us. He’s more than a neighbor, she considers him one of her many “sons”. For many years while I lived other places he would come down and keep her company, run errands for her and was always there with a gift on Christmas, mother’s or her birthday.

So, he’s a great guy and I’m grateful for him being here for Miss Cathy and although she and I had been getting along it’s always nice to have a “buffer”.

Monday rolled around and I reminded her around 11:30 am on my way out to run a few errands that we were going to lunch soon and she said, “Oh, is that today? I thought it was tomorrow.”

“No,” I said, “it’s today, but we can make it tomorrow if you’d rather go then.”

“No, no”, she said, “today is fine.”

By the time I came back a little before 2:00 pm she was sitting in the living room dressed in a smart summer outfit; black top, black pants, white jacket with black piping and a smart, white summer hat to match. I was in cargo shorts and a tee so I showered and changed into a dress shirt, jeans and seersucker blazer to match her festive attire.

Ron drove so I sat in the back and let the two of them gab in the front seat. I tried not to listen but I couldn’t help but hear them talking, especially how she tended to cut him off and not let the poor guy finish a thought or answer one of her many questions. At one point she said, “It’s awful quiet in the back, jump in whenever you want Ty.”

“I’m just waiting for a pause in the conversation”, I said and went back to looking out the car window (what I was hoping for was a moment of silence but it wasn’t my birthday so no point wishing for that gift).

When we arrived at our destination we discovered that the Ruby Tuesday had moved from that location so we ended up at a Red Lobster nearby after Miss Cathy said that she liked seafood. The Red Lobster, to me, is to seafood what The Olive Garden is to Italian food-a place for people that “don’t know no betta’”.

They’re both places that say they’re “of/for/and about” a particular cuisine (and I use the term “cuisine” broadly) and they have the pictures on the menu to proof it, but anyplace that has to show me the food needs to spend less time in the photo studio and more time in the kitchen.

When we were settled into the booth of the restaurant with our oversized, picture book menus I asked Miss Cathy what looked good to her and she said she wasn’t very hungry, that she’d eaten two hot dogs at home waiting for me to come back from my errands.

I asked her why she ate if she knew she was going out to lunch and she just shrugged. Thankfully it didn’t stop her from ordering or enjoying the time we spent together which was the point after all.

What came to the table was an orgy of food; shrimp, scallops and various other former creatures of the sea, laid out on platters dripping in butter, cream sauce and/or batter dipped. It looked less like seafood and more like a heart attack with biscuits on the side but Ron and I ate with gusto and I asked for a doggy bag for Miss Cathy.

She seemed to have a good time, never at a loss for something to talk about. Back at home she opened birthday cards from family and friends and proudly displayed them in the living room.

She’s seventy-three now, which isn’t old these days (I keep reminding her that “seventy is the new sixty” but she didn’t get that memo, for all intents and purposes she acts more like someone ten years her senior-that’s just who she is, it’s as if one day she decided that she was “old” and that was that).

But, she doesn’t want for much, just to be home and not to have to go anywhere. So, I have to remember that the best gift I can give her is the security of knowing that she’s safe at home where she wants to be and she doesn’t have to worry about going anywhere much or doing anything other than what she wants to do.

Happy Birthday Miss Cathy.

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