Yesterday was my 49th birthday.
And, I have to say, it was the best birthday I celebrated in years.
I have never made a big fuss about birthdays. A card, a couple of presents, a nice dinner, and of course, birthday cake and ice cream with my loved ones is usually all I want.
So, I had not made any major plans to celebrate #49. The only thing I had on my agenda was lunch with Peter. Over the course of our relationship, we had gotten into the habit of having birthday lunches, since that was the only way we could acknowledge them in person.
Of course, this year was very different from last year. Peter and I had not slept together since February. Our communication was sporadic…maybe a Facebook message exchange once a week. I could see over the summer that he was putting a lot of effort into rebuilding his relationship with HER. They adopted another dog; that he was vigorously supporting her attempts to self publish a book.
Then Troy exploded into my life a month ago, and I realized that my “in love” feelings for Peter had become “love;” love for a friend who helped me through a very dark time. I was ready to move on. While I will always love Peter, the romantic part of our relationship was over for good.
I was merely waiting until I could tell him in person.
When we met at our normal sandwich shop yesterday, we caught up on each other lives. (He passed his certification, by the way!) Finally, he asked me, “Are you seeing anyone, Lizzie? You haven’t been making jokes about bad dates on Facebook, so I assumed you were either taking a break or you were seeing someone you didn’t want to talk about yet.”
Dammit, he knows me too well.
I answered, “I have been seeing someone for the last couple of weeks. It’s too early to tell what’s going to happen, or where it’s going. But, we do like each other a lot, and I don’t think it’s going to fizzle out anytime soon.”
As I’m telling him about Troy, he smiles, and says, “Lizzie, if he is into you, he’s got to be a terrific guy. Be yourself, Angel. Be your wonderful, funny, beautiful self. He isn’t going to know what’s hit him if you do. I sure as hell didn’t.”
At this point, we are standing outside his office building. He gives me one last hug, and says “Happy birthday my Angel. And be happy. That’s all I want for you.”
“That’s all I want for you too, Peter. I’ll always be your friend, no matter what.”
At this point I start to walk away…and I don’t look back. This time, unlike 24 years ago, I don’t feel like I’m making a mistake. I finally have my closure with him…and I can move on without thinking “what if.”
As I walk back to my car, I look at my iPhone, and see I have a text from Troy.
Troy: Any birthday plans?
Me: Just had lunch with a friend, and that’s about it. Sad, I know. The friend was Peter.”
Troy: Oh my. And?
Me: He knows we’re done. He knows I’m seeing someone. And he is happy for me.”
Troy: That was kind of him to acknowledge your birthday.
Me: When all is said and done, he is a good guy. And a real friend. So nothing for you to be concerned about.
Troy: Oh, I am not concerned at all. I only want what is best for you, ever. Period.
Me: This is what’s best for me. Closure with him. And I want what is best for you. Always.
Troy: Thanks. 🙂
Me: You’re adorable. I’m glad I met you and took a chance on you.
I think, no biggie. He’s working…getting ready for his interview Thursday. He either call or text later.
When I get back to my desk, I tackle the pile of paperwork waiting for me. After a couple of hours, Troy texts me. He asks how my day has been…idle chit-chat. (I do think it’s sweet that he wants to talk, however.)
Then comes this exchange…
Troy: Are you about to leave work?
Me: In about 30 minutes.
Troy: Want to have dinner with me?
Troy: What are you…an Indian?
Me: You’re 200 miles away.
Troy: Currently 92. Oh, wait, my math is wrong. 112.
Me: OF COURSE! What a wonderful surprise!
Troy: It’s your birthday so you get to choose the restaurant.
I about fell off of my desk chair! I’m trying to think of places nearby…trying to figure out what he likes.
Finally he says,
Troy: You get 90 miles to decide. 🙂
Me: This is the best birthday present you could have given me, you know!
I dash home, freshen my makeup and hair, etc. While I was getting ready, I had decided to go with a favorite local Italian place; you can’t go wrong with Italian, after all.
Soon, Troy is knocking at the door.
He tells me he can’t stay overnight–his meeting/interview has been moved up a day, so he has to be there first thing in the morning. He has to leave right after dinner.
I tell him to follow me, and I lead him to Alberti’s.
Alberti’s is your stereotypical Italian restaurant: dark red stucco walls, red and white checked plastic table clothes, candles and flowers on the tables.
It’s packed. When we get inside, we are told we’ll have a short wait. While we wait at the bar, Troy starts to fill me in on the change of plans…and that he intends to stay through most of the weekend with his kids. But, that he wants to see me Sunday…will that work? I say of course!
We are shown to our table, and we settle in and start talking.
Troy looks around and says, “So do you see any one you know?”
I glance around, but don’t see anyone right off the bat. I tell him no, but I’m surprised my chums “Jamie” and “Catherine” aren’t here. They are usually down there once or twice a week.
We place our orders, and start talking. Mostly funny stories about our families, school; typical getting to know you stuff you talk about on a date.
Our food arrives, and we dig in (Eggplant Parmesan for me, an Applewood Smoked Pork Loin with Risotto for him.) I asked when did he decide to surprise me?
He said when the meeting got pushed up a day, he realized he will make it to my town in time for dinner. That’s when he sent me the text asking if I had any plans; he wanted to make sure I was available.
He said, “you really didn’t realize that was what I was doing?”
I said, “No! You took me completely by surprise.” He gives me that heart stopping smile and says “Yes!”
At that point, my friend Jamie walks past our table. She sees me and runs over saying “There’s the birthday girl!” She glances over and is surprised to see an unfamiliar man sitting there. I quickly introduce them and she says, “I just have to get a picture of us on your special day!” Troy volunteers to take the picture.
And I KNOW she’s going to put on Facebook and tag me.
She gets up, and says, “Oh…Catherine and a bunch of us are over there. Come by and say hi to everyone before you go.” I glance over there, and yeah, there is a TABLE of my high school buddies.
Only four or five of my most trusted friends know about Troy. I don’t want to curse things by going public too soon.
I say, “You know I’m gonna catch all kinds of shit from my friends, don’t you?”
Troy laughs and says, “I know. And I love it!” I see Jamie walk by again. She looks at me, mouths “HE. IS. CUTE!” then gives me an evil grin and a thumbs up as she walks behind our booth.
It’s getting late; Troy still has another four hours to drive. The bill paid, we head over to say hi/bye to my high school buddies.
Yup…they are grinning at me and Troy. Oh, I am going to get picked on UNMERCIFULLY!
Oh, well. If they didn’t like me, they would be messing with me, now would they?
As we walk out, I tell him, “Oh I’m in for it tonight.” Troy just laughs and says “what’s wrong with that?”
I say “Nothing.”
We walk back to our cars, say our goodbyes, and exchange a few toe curling kisses.
“See you Sunday afternoon, Lizzie.”
I say, “Drive carefully…and good luck tomorrow.”
Ten minutes later, I’m home.
And tonight, the condo actually FEELS like home. I marvel at how different birthday #49 was from #48.
Last year I was a grief stricken, “bat shit crazy hot mess”; caught in a dead relationship, having an affair with an engaged man, starting menopause, and about to be forced out my childhood home to settle estate expenses.
Three hundred and sixty five days later, I’m single, independent, and have a budding romance with a great guy. While I still have the occasional hot flash and mental lapse, I feel better than I have in years.
I’m surrounded by wonderful friends who care and support me in all my craziness.
I’m feeling like ME again.
And that really is the best gift I could have.
Happy birthday Lizzie! And there will be many, many more!