I did not forget the Carpenter’s birthday. Aug. 5 is forever etched in my mind as the day one of my favourite human beings ever to be born was, in fact, born. So rest assured I remembered. What I forgot to do was plan to have enough money in my budget to purchase the Carpenter a birthday gift.

It was an honest mistake. It really was. I mean, it’s not my fault his birthday falls on the same weekend as my car payment, credit card fees and a host of other remarkably expensive things required to keep our family afloat. Add in a long weekend and a short pay week to follow and, well, there goes that.

Perhaps I should have had more coffee. On Sunday mornings, I always organize the weekly family schedule, divided by sports, work and volunteer schedules, what bill payments come out and other noteworthy appointments. This helps me budget time, expenses and hopefully manage the unexpected. Then I do all the week’s banking online. I mark what bills were paid on my online calendar and track it all on a corresponding spreadsheet to keep myself organized (neurotic is exotic, people).

When I’m done, I offer the Carpenter a final tally for exactly how many trips to the drive-thru he can afford this week.

The good news is, I made all the required bill payments on time and thus our credit rating remains stellar (if stellar falls under the column “barely scrapping by” – let’s pretend it does). The bad news is there was nothing extra left in the coffers to purchase my spouse a gift on the one day that celebrates him. And he deserves to be celebrated.

The Carpenter insisted it didn’t matter. He said it was an overblown occasion and that he didn’t require attention, special gifts or any other notoriety. He said that silly line: “just being with you is enough” (oh, I know that’s enough, snort). 

Panic … How much Canadian Tire money could I gather to eek out a gift? It would help if I knew what my man wanted. Maybe I could budget it into next week and write him a sweet note to assure him the gift was on layaway. Nothing says love like layaway.

But he refused to offer ideas and shrugged off any suggestions or special plans. He didn’t want, need or show interest in anything. Cranky. “How about a book?” I suggested. “Then I would need to get glasses,” he growled.

It took me days to get to the heart of his apathy: age. Truth is, he wasn’t loving that the number five is now followed by an increasing number every year. Fifty was hard. Fifty-one is, in his words, a downhill slope. He was okay to ignore it. But then it hit him: his plan is to retire from construction at 55, to start something new. Four years is not a long time. The smile returned to his beautiful face.

Of course, this did nothing to solve my problem. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure he has a good birthday. Calm down, I meant that I can afford chip dip and this time, I’ll share. That’s a lie; he gets his own chips and dip. And I will leave him alone to watch zombie shows.

I hope he likes that as much as I like older men who wear glasses and read books.

Happy birthday, Carpenter.


Kelly Waterhouse