OK, most of the people who read this blog are theatre people, so you already know that we don’t have birthdays. We have rehearsal. The most any theatre professional can hope for is a surprise cake at break before you get back to work blocking 21-36. WE KNOW THIS. It’s one of the hazards of the job, and that’s fine.
I decided to buck that hazard for one year out of my life (I started in theatre when I was 12) and have an actual birthday. I kept Monday, April 15 clear of rehearsals, meetings, coaching, auditions, readings, and performances. It was a challenge, but I did it. I was going to have a BIRTHDAY, DAMMIT. I was going to experience the magic of civilian life.
There was already a wrench in the works when the sink started leaking on Sunday. The garbage disposal had a screw stuck in it (WHERE THE HELL DID A SCREW COME FROM AS I DID NOT HANDWASH A BATTLEMECH) and was therefore refusing to work and leaking water all over the place. We tried calling the plumber but it was Sunday and we were out of luck. So I knew going in that part of my CIVILIAN NON-THEATRE BIRTHDAY EXTRAVAGANZA on Monday would be meeting the plumber. So maybe the mani-pedi (one of the very few girly things I do) can wait until another day.
We go to bed Sunday. Tomorrow is going to be AWESOME. I’m going to play way too much xbox, wait for the plumber (slightly less awesome but working sink = AWESOME, so OK), blog, thank everyone for the birthday wishes as they roll in on facebook, maybe still squeeze in a pedicure, maybe do a little work on the script WAIT NO I MEAN some work on the dramaturgy for my summer class WAIT. OK, this is harder than I thought. MORE XBOX and then a no-kids dinner date with my husband, whom I had planned to ravish afterwards. A perfect day. I get a midnight birthday kiss and we go to sleep.
Fifteen minutes after the “go to sleep” commences, my husband sits up, yelling “I CAN’T BREATHE.”
This gets my attention.
I vault awake and ask him what’s going on. I’m fully into my “Calm In A Crisis” Mode, a mode I discovered I had during my mother’s many health odysseys. He tells me he’s having trouble breathing, he has a crushing pain in his chest, his left arm is tingling, and he feels like he’s going to faint. It’s 12:20 by now and I’m throwing my clothes on, ready to take him to the ER. I give him a choice: ambulance or car? By the time I have enough of my body covered to be able to make a public appearance, his symptoms are subsiding. He decides to call the Kaiser advice nurse first. I take nothing off, because I’m still certain we’re going to the hospital.
The advice nurse says to come in if any of the symptoms return, but otherwise come in the next day. He makes an appointment for my husband for 10:40AM. My husband gets up to file a lesson plan with his school and contact sub finder. I follow him and sit next to him the entire time he does this because I don’t want to let him out of my sight. My night owl Managing Director, the awesome Cheshire Isaacs, sees that I’m up and we chat for a bit on facebook. It’s a serendipitous moment of comfort while I’m in Handling It mode.
The next day, I get up early, pack a lunch for the son not on spring break, and check my email before we head off to Kaiser. Sitting in my inbox are two comments on this blog waiting for approval. One is from a dude mansplaining dramaturgy to me because my understanding of dramatic structure is ALL WRONG (I might approve his comment and just reply with a scan of my PhD diploma). The other is special, though: MY FIRST MRA TROLL! Every female blogger of note has them. I feel like I’ve arrived. He’s angry because I’ve used the word “dick” as a pejorative in the word “Dicklandia,” which he believes renders every comment I’ve ever made about sexism inoperable. He says it’s comparable to using “Pussylandia” or “Asianlandia.” I toy with approving his comment just to see what your responses would be, but I have bigger fish to fry. I leave my mansplainer and my MRA troll where they are.
We spend five hours in Kaiser, most of it in the ER. My poor husband has two EKGs, a chest xray, a bunch of blood work, and an ultrasound (I have now seen my husband’s actual beating heart). I read about Boston on my phone and my heart breaks. I put my phone down– I need to focus on the crisis in front of me. We wait for the test results to see if the doctor will let us go home or admit my husband.
Through it all, we are how we always are– joking with staff, not making a fuss, doing our best to ease their working day. We are Good Customers. When they wheel him out for the chest xray, I’m left in the room alone. For the five minutes I am unseen behind the closed door, I lose it. I cry and cry.
And then I realize, for the first time in two decades, I have left the house without a handkerchief. There are no tissues in this exam room. I tear off some 20-grit paper towels and attempt to wipe my face and blow my nose without scraping off half my face.
The tests are inconclusive and they send us home. The good news is that it wasn’t a heart attack; the bad news is they don’t know WHAT it was. He’s told to rest and follow up with his GP.
We go home, exhausted. We sleep for a bit. Too tired to put pants on, go out in public, or, you know, move more than 20 feet, I shuffle out to the kitchen and make popcorn for dinner (ON THE STOVETOP THE WAY GOD INTENDED). I always make too much popcorn, so I had leftover popcorn in the bowl, which I set near the tower of books by my bed. Ehhhhhhhhhhh. I’ll get it in the morning. What could possibly go wrong?
I’m afraid to go to sleep– I think if I’m not watching him nonstop something terrible will happen. Exhaustion finally wins out and I turn out the light around midnight.
AGAIN WITH THE 12:15. I hear suspicious sounds coming from the popcorn bowl. I grab my glasses, turn on the light, and
A FUCKING MOUSE leaps out of the bowl and makes a mad dash for the closet.
Whatever I said (possibly “HOLY SHIT A MOUSE”) wakes up my husband who gets out of bed, semi-excavates the closet, and sets a mousetrap. I sit up for way too long listening to the mouse scurrying around until it hits the trap (or maybe cleverly disarms the trap and makes off with the peanut butter; we haven’t checked it yet), and quiets down so I can finally get to sleep.
And that was my birthday.
Lesson learned, universe. Theatre people: DO NOT EVEN TRY. Giving up birthdays and anniversaries are just part of the darksided deal we made.
My birthday is Thursday…I am a retired theatre teacher (30 years plus) and now a full time playwright..I think you are funny and marvelous and quite courageous to even TRY to have a normal b-day…don’t get me started about tax time and how I always got none to few b-day presents when I was a kid…Happy birthday, kid!
Happy birthday, Melissa! I firmly believe in celebrating all week. Heck, all month. Take an hour here, half an hour there, until you finally get your full 24 hours’ worth of birthday. Nothing wrong with it!
Sorry about the hubs…hope he continues to be fine and healthy. Sending cheers and an uneventful sleep for you tonight!
I agree with Christine. A little bit here and there to celebrate your birthday is in order. Happy Birthday! You are funny. Glad all is well.
Oh, my. Well, happy birthday, anyway. I hope all is well now. Maybe pleurisy…?
Happy Birthday. And yes, I’ve had not dissimilar (tho nowhere nearly as dramatic) experiences – theater since age 8, here – which gave birth to the idea that, since I was born to do theater, I should celebrate all life events where the Universe intended.
Okay, that was just WAY too funny, and so crazy, it had to be true. I was up late one night all by myself when my kids were between 8-14, and I heard something in the sandwich baggies drawer. I opened it, and there was a mouse, staring at me. I yelled, “OH, SHIT!” and slammed the drawer shut. My eldest daughter came downstairs and said, “I heard you, Mom, you said ‘shit’! You said that word!” etc. etc. (I swear as little as possible as a general rule, but mice, well, they’re definitely the exception). So I said, “No, you got it wrong. Look,” and I opened the drawer, “we have a mouse and he pooped in the drawer. That’s all I was saying.Poop = shit.” Somehow, she actually believed me. Sigh…