birthday · husband · school · teenager

Not the Birthday .. or Day After .. I expected

Yesterday, September 10th, was my birthday. Once more, as every year since 2002, I woke up disoriented and confused.

My husband and I awoke, as the door clicked and our teenager left for school. We looked at each other and he said “whoa, she left without saying goodbye”. We walked around the house for a few minutes and noticed workers in the courtyard. One of them came to our entrance, started making noise and dust with a sander. He seemed surprised when my husband opened the door. “Oh, you’re leaving? Well, don’t worry about this, if you have to come back in we’ll put some planks down for you to walk.” So we mumbled something vague and left.

I was a woman on a mission. One of our nearby malls just announced a new store, and I wanted to see it for myself. We walked the entire mall, upper and lower level. We got home before the teenager got in from school. The hallway entrance had been ripped up but not refinished. Our dog had apparently had been thoroughly scared by the noises. He left evidence all over the floor. And still, the floor guys said we weren’t interfering with their work.

We went out for dinner as a family. Then to another mall, where we walked and walked and stopped for cold drinks just before coming home. We got in after dark, and found tiles down in the hallway. One of my sisters called about 8:30 to say “happy birthday” and a few minutes after we hung up

the lights went out.

We were in the dark.

Our apartment, plus a few others. Not the entire complex. Just a few units. We grabbed candles and flashlights and matches. We called the electric company and were told “there has been an outage reported”. Husband walked around the complex for a few minutes and saw people sleeping in their cars.

Sleeping in their cars.

Well, it was time for sleep anyway. We checked our phone alarms and stayed away from the refrigerator.

I woke up at 3-something, 4-something, then 5-something in the dark. Watched my husband dress and leave for work. We hadn’t heard any utility trucks, or the hum of electrical appliances, during the night. I was cranky and sweaty and not ready for civilization. I kissed the teenager goodbye, asked her to let me know if her school had power issues. She called a few minutes later and said that her school’s announcement system was working. I called our electrical company again, and this time the customer service person asked me why the power was out.

The customer service person asked me


I repeated back what last night’s rep said .. an area problem, not just one unit.

I called work, to say that I wouldn’t be coming in.

And I waited.

No utility trucks.

Anxious dog.

Around 10 AM signs of life, as the floor guys came back to the courtyard and started setting up for more work. They dropped tools, plugged in cords and


I heard them mumble to each other, and ran to the window.

“Hey, you’re fixing switches in the basement? Can you check mine?”

And that was how the floor guys fixed the power outage.

But today is still September 11th, Patriots Day, today is the anniversary of the day the towers fell. And today is the day our nation marks with respect.

Today, just like yesterday, I feel guilty for waking up to a loving embrace when so many people will never again hug loved ones.

All day long as I do ordinary things, like cleaning out the refrigerator and making a grocery list, I will be grateful and sad for those who lost a beloved brother, sister, mother, father, uncle, aunt, husband, wife, daughter, son, or friend.

I will stop to think of those who sacrificed, and those left behind. The day after my birthday isn’t my oldest nephew’s birthday anymore, it’s a national day of mourning.

Why should I expect anything else? This is our “new normal”.