It all began well enough. I was dreaming of steam trains plowing into tunnels, volcanoes erupting, and other obvious metaphoric images, when I was slowly awakened by a delightfully familiar sensation centered just below my navel. They say dreams really only last for a few seconds, so maybe I was just projecting, my subconscious zeroing in on all the real world stimulation. Pretty soon I was wide awake and the dream fantasies were quickly replaced with much more satisfying reality.
After words, my, Penny, turned to me, grinning, and said, “Happy birthday sweetums.” She’s cute that way. I grinned back, panting a little, and wheezed out a profound thank you. This particular birthday was not one I had been looking forward to. It was one of the big ones, those ending in zero, and there had been too many of them already. At least I could still, well, you know.
We had a nice leisurely breakfast at a little mom & pop place not too far from home. It’s the kind of place your doctor warns you about; all those artery clogging, cholesterol laden, calorie stuffed treats piled way too high, smugly defying you to leave anything behind. I rose to the challenge, took no prisoners, and waddled out, full and not feeling even a little guilty. After all, it was my day.
Then things began to slowly unravel. We were going into the city, taking the commuter train because no one in their right mind drives there, even on a special birthday weekend. The plan was to hit the art museum, grab lunch, do some shopping, and top it off with an it’s-my-birthday-damn-the-expense. Our sense of is limitless.
Shortly after boarding the train, Penny called our daughter, Theresa, who lives just north of downtown. She was going to join us forand Penny was calling to firm things up. She didn’t answer the phone, neither land line nor cell. After several tries, still nothing. Concern started to flutter around the edges of Penny’s face. Each time she called and got no answer it got worse. Panic began to elbow its way in and I sensed, perceptive guy that I am, a shift in the direction my day was taking.
The cause for all this upheaval had happened several days earlier. We had gone out of town for a pre-birthday vacation. You don’t want to postpone things too long when the AARP is breathing down your neck- as it had been for some time. We were in Las Vegas, of all places. Neither one of us gambles and the idea of staking out the early bird buffets just creeped us out. We’ll never be old enough for that, we said.
Mainly we went for the wildly over-the-top shows and maybe a glimpse of COPS shooting a new episode. We also thought dining at trendy celebrity chef restaurants with clanging slot machines as background music would be entertaining. With age comes great wisdom, you know. Plus, it was sunny. Most of the time. Except when they got their annual 4″ of rainfall while we were there. On the positive side, though, we were accosted by only a few drunks wanting quarters for the peep shows.
We were sitting in the room, exhausted from yet another Circque du Soleil extravaganza, when the phone rang and a tiny shaky voice said, “I’ve been mugged.”
We were, of course, shocked and instantly worried. She was okay, she said, hadn’t been raped, but had a head full of nasty bruises, 2 black eyes, split lip, the whole ugly aftermath of a brutal attack. She had fought back, she said, and that was what probably saved her from a worse outcome.
When we got back home and saw her, we asked, “Where’s Theresa?” Her face was that unrecognizable. There had been no real damage that wouldn’t heal, but wow. You just aren’t prepared for something like that. So we hugged and got teary and said everything would be fine, which it would be in fairly short order. She’s a tough lady and this wasn’t going to get to her.
And it didn’t. She recovered quickly, although it did take a while for her to revisit the place where it happened and get past it. Soon she was her beautiful self again and back in high speed city girl gear.
Penny was now in full Mom mode and said we have to go to her place to see why she isn’t answering the %^*& phone. Actually Penny doesn’t say things like %^*&, but that was the intent. I, of course, couldn’t object, even though it was my day and I knew there was a logical explanation, that everything was fine, just fine. Nonetheless, off to the north side we went.
At her apartment, there was no answer to our knock, naturally, so we had to go dig up the super to unlock her door. It took some cajoling (Penny can cajole, let me tell you) but he finally relented and let us in. No Theresa and Penny was beside herself, seeing our daughter lying in an alley somewhere, or abducted, or something else equally horrible. Nothing I could say mattered so I just stood there looking concerned and thinking unkind thoughts. I, being incredibly naive and living in my own fantasy world, knew she was okay.
The door opened and in strolled Theresa, not a care in the world, oblivious to the immense pain and suffering she had caused. Ha! So I was right! I knew it. She had simply gone out and left her cell phone at home, the careless, selfish girl she was. Penny sort of imploded, hugging her and chattering on about her dark thoughts. I joined the hug and we kind of slid around, the way Mary Tyler Moore and the gang did when Chuckles the clown died.
So now the day was pretty much shot. It was too late to go to the museum and shopping, and, well, how could we go shopping after all that? We killed time for a while and headed out, the three of us , for dinner.
As it happened, our reservations were at a restaurant where Theresa worked as a server, so she was well known by everyone there. I had been warned that she would be the center of attention rather than I due to her recent trauma and I should just sit there and behave and nod appreciatively now and then. Okay by me as long as the scotch kept coming. All through dinner it was “hpyb’day Oh Theresa, you poor thing, does it still hurt, it’s really looking so much better,you’re such a brave person” and so on. I silently commended myself for taking the high road and not resenting the attention she was getting, me being a great Dad and all.
Having stuffed ourselves on steak, wine, and the obligatory complementary dessert, we left our princess to her court and headed back to the train station. For reasons I still can’t fathom, we were taking the bus. It was crowded and I was standing in the aisle and a beautiful 20 something blonde was in the seat in front of me. She had the whole package; silky hair, big blue eyes, long shapely, really shapely legs. Why she was on the bus too, I don’t know either.
She looked up at me and smiled and I smiled back, puffing up a little. Oh, boy, I thought, I still got it, yes sir. Then she said, “Sir, would you like my seat?”
At that point, my world and my day just collapsed. I felt like Jimmy Stewart in Virtigo. Everything started to dissolve and I was looking down at myself from above. “Sir, would you like my seat?” The nerve of some people. If I had had it with me, I would’ve wadded up the latest ad I got from AARP and thrown it at her.
So what made this a Fine Day? My daughter survived a horrible attack and bounced back stronger than ever, myand I can still excite each other, I made it through another one of those birthdays, and the girl did smile at me. Let’s just leave it at that.