There was going to be a party. Not just any party. There was going to be a birthday party at my son’s home. It was an hours drive, deep into the suburbs north of the city. There was going to be food, fancy food created by a chef. Everyone was attending. They had been talking about it for weeks. It was a thoroughly planned party. My mother-in-law and my sister-in- law, were coming in from out of town. It was apparently a party that was not to be missed. Some of the family members were discussing gifts, text messaging photos of items they were considering purchasing for the guest of honor. Everyone was bringing a gift. My wife wanted to know what I wanted to take as a gift.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.”, I stated.
“No.”, she said. “We have to take to take something.”
“Why.”, I asked her.
“Because that’s what you do for a birthday.”, she advised.
“You know”, I told her, “He doesn’t know its his birthday.”
“It doesn’t matter.”, she replied. “We have to take a gift.”
“The question really is why do we have to go at all.”, I said.
“Because its the right thing to do.”, she said. “Its his birthday.”
“You know”, I said, “you know he’s a dog, right?” Right. Everyone knew he was a dog. But he had always been my wife’s dog.
The party itself was a gala event. The living room was decorated with banners embossed with sentiments suggesting that the dog have a happy day. There were dog cupcakes, and a candle was put in one as my family burst into a rousing rendition of happy birthday for a dog who had long ago left and went to sleep in another room. He was carried out to hear the song and to eat a cupcake, and then returned to another room to go back to sleep.
The gifts were unwrapped without his presence. There was a sweater, a basketball jersey, some assorted chew toys, dog treats, and a certificate for a dog spa day.
“Someone should have got him a girl.”, I said.
“What?”, my wife asked, wondering if she heard me correctly.
“Someone should have got him a bitch.”, I said, “You know, a female dog that jumped out of a cake or something.”
“What the hell is he going to do with a bitch?”, my wife asked me. “He’s been fixed.”
“So have I.”, I reminded her. “But I’ve still got a bitch.” She smiled ever so slightly, not wanting me to know that she found it funny.
“Well”, she said, “The difference is you’ve still got your balls.”
“Really?”, I queried. “I’m pretty sure that you’ve had them for the last 25 years or so.” I went back to sit in the lounge chair only to find the birthday dog and his little sister laying down across it.
The chit chat emanating from this group was loud and diverse, There were several different conversations occurring at the same time, each one slightly louder than the other, in order that each participant in each conversation could hear and be heard. There was talk of synthetic proteins to aid in muscle building, shoulder surgery, and healthy eating. There was one conversation which raised the concern of the poor and the homeless. I was bored, and I wanted to leave. No one was speaking about music, or drugs, although my mother in law did raise the issue of now taking statins. There were no philosophical debates, and no questions regarding intelligent life in the universe. What the hell had happened to my family? The lot of them were turning into protein drinking, vegan gym rats. I had never felt so alone in my life. It was clear to me, at that moment that I must be the alien. As for intelligent life in the universe, I was certain that it wasn’t in that room on that day.
I suppose it was a good party, I mean its always great to see all of the kids and their partners together. It was nice to see the dogs too, although in all of the years I have known my mother-in-law and sister-in-law, neither of them has ever come into town for one of my birthdays, and there have been many significant ones. I have never received a gift from them either, although my wife informed me that I already had the greatest gift they could have given to anyone, and that of course, was her. I remind her that the return policy had always been very one sided, with no opportunity for a refund or at least an exchange. She let me know that she is irreplaceable, and at best, I would wind up with a a very inferior replacement. And as for the refund, well, apparently there just wasn’t enough money to cover her value. Sadly, she was right.
“This better not become an annual event.”, I told her on the long drive home. “I’m not doing this again.”
“We’ll see.”, she said. “Since we’re in the area, do you feel like grabbing a veal sandwich from Nino D’Aversa?”
“Are you buying?”, I asked.
“Do you have any money on you?”, she questioned.
“Not a dime.”, I answered. “You don’t let me have any.”
“Well.”, she told me, “That’s because you keep losing it.”
“So you’re buying then?”, I again.
“I always do.”, she replied. “And this is why I can never be returned.”
“Ya.”, I said. “Because you have all of my money.”
“Its our money.”, she advised me. “And yes I do.”