My relationship with Bob began at a dinner held in his honor. In December of 2002, I had been working for Bob for only a few months and while we were professional at the office, our affection for one another was becoming clear. He was celebrating his 43rd birthday and asked if I would join him and a small group of friends at a restaurant in Old Town. I didn’t want to meet his friends for the first time without backup so I begged my best friend and her husband to come along, too.
I remember being nervous that night. I also remember laughing a lot. Having a fun, flirtatious time. It was a birthday but also a beginning. Bob often points to that birthday, that night, as the start of it all. His birthday wish granted.
Three years and one wedding later, just ten days after he turned 46 years old, I gave Bob what could arguably be described as the best birthday present ever, a brand new baby.
We spent the days surrounding Bob’s birthday and Henry’s arrival, over Christmas of 2005, assembling the crib, giving our Shetland Sheepdog extra attention and hypothesizing over whether we were having a girl or a boy. We had decided against putting up a Christmas tree that year because we knew we would have our hands full both before and after the holidays but our friends wouldn’t have it. They delivered a freshly cut tree in the back of their pickup truck with one of them dressed as Santa.
I used to make fancy pressed coffee for us on weekend afternoons and I can remember sitting around in our tiny house, sipping coffee and appreciating the scent of the huge Christmas tree that took up half the real estate in our living room. This was the last of Bob’s birthdays that we would spend as a party of two.
A few years later and with the addition of one baby Charlie, Bob’s 50th birthday looked very different. The entire Washington metro area was in the midst of a massive snow storm and I had waited in line for over an hour at the grocery store, with hundreds of other panicked shoppers, to buy ingredients for his special dinner.
I had purchased a new flat-screen television for Bob in honor of his birthday but had stashed it in our neighbor’s basement weeks before to keep it a surprise. The streets were covered in a few feet of snow so navigating the large, heavy box back to our house in secret proved challenging. My former neighbor and I still laugh about the two of us walking down our Del Ray street, in the dark of evening, with a huge TV box awkwardly hoisted between us. We looked like we were taking advantage of the bad weather to loot.
Bob spent his 50th birthday shoveling snow with Henry and napping with Charlie. On the sofa. In front of his new TV.
Millie arrived in time for Bob’s 52nd birthday; such a bundle of joy. We were still reeling from the addition of a third child – a girl! – when we celebrated.
I gifted Bob with a painting for his birthday that year. I handed my father a photograph of a particularly wonderful moment during a particularly wonderful weekend Bob and I had spent with the boys earlier in the spring and my dad recreated it on canvas. It is precious.
We put our house on the market only a couple of weeks after Bob’s birthday so I remember this time being especially hectic with punch lists and things to do. I don’t believe we even hung the painting until we were relocated to Richmond.
Tomorrow, Bob turns 55. I’m not sure what he thought 55 would look like way back in 2002, when we were making googly eyes at one another across the table at the Union Street Public House, but I’m pretty sure neither of us envisioned this.
This birthday will probably be a lot like every other birthday Bob’s had since we’ve been together. Much the same but also different. This year, my parents will be here to help celebrate. I will make a favorite dinner for Bob and present him with baked goods and a present and try my hardest to make his big day, only five days before Christmas, a special one.
A special day for a very special man. Happy birthday, my love.