Birthday Gifts

Today is my sweetie’s birthday. On this day over 40 years ago I made him a birthday cake and invited him over to my house to surprise him with it. It was a very bold move on my part but his birthday fell on a Friday that year so I was hoping he’d say yes. We’d known each other about a month at that point and had often chatted in the hallways after a mutual friend introduced us at our high school’s Senior Class play (my sister had the lead role).

We both were kind of shy but I really liked him and so I made the first move even though I was a lowly sophomore and my sister didn’t really want me hanging around with her senior friends. But Keene was fair game as far as I was concerned because I met him all on my own (she was IN the play and not anywhere near us when we met AT the play).

Keene was sooooo cute with his big blue eyes, manly mutton chop sideburns, silky golden brown hair with blonde highlights, all set on a lanky 6’1” frame. If we hadn’t lived in North Jersey and it hadn’t been January I might have guessed he was a surfer. But the only surfing he did was in the car that he rebuilt and restored, a 1963 Corvair. Owning his very own car increased his coolness and on top of that he was a smart, college bound guy who was simply fun.

When he arrived at my house on that birthday Friday night in 1971, he found a terribly lopsided chocolate cake. So lopsided that I had to put books under one side of the serving plate to keep the cake level. Keene laughed and enjoyed the taste, if not the look. Then a few days later, he asked me out on a real date. I had to ask my dad if it was OK (Keene was 18 and I was only 15) and Dad said yes. The rest is history.

Even though it’s Keene’s birthday today, I’m the one who for over 40 years has been given the gifts. I am the person I am today because of his love. I was so young when we met that I wasn’t quite fully-formed as a human being so it was in the light of Keene’s love that I was able to finish becoming an adult. Because he loved me so well, I was able to see myself differently. In his love I was stronger, more competent, more confident, and more beautiful than I thought possible. Yet because of his certainty, I finally believed it too (even with way my too curly hair).

Keene & grandchild #3

Keene & grandchild #3

Together we made a life and a family. Our three children have now graced us with four incredible grandchildren (and one more on the way). We’ve had ups and downs, triumphs and tragedy through the years but our love upholds us. We are so blessed.

His hair has changed a bit and his mutton-chops transformed into a white beard but his eyes are still big and blue, he’s still a lanky 6’1” and he’s still the most fun person I know to hang out with. So on his birthday, I want to thank God for the gift of Keene.


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