Happy Birthday to Ben and Me (and You)

So, my birthday is tomorrow.  I’ll be 39.  Yeah, I know.  Half of you will say, “Wow, you’re THAT old?” while the other half of you will say, “Wow, you’re still a kid.”  I’ll just say, I’m still here and that’s a pretty exciting thing.

More importantly, however, is that my oldest son, Ben (or Tim), turns 24 today.  I didn’t raise him.  He was born the day before my 15th birthday at Porter Memorial Hospital in Valparaiso, Indiana.  My parents had sent me from our home in Wyoming, Michigan when I was three months pregnant to live in the Bethesda Home for Unwed Mothers until I delivered my child.  On July 29, 1989, I celebrated my 15th birthday.  The hospital brought me TWO cakes – one for my birthday and one for Timothy’s birthday.  I’m not sure that hospitals generally give out cakes for ANYTHING anymore.  Cake probably isn’t the healthiest way to celebrate, but it was a moment in time when I wasn’t the girl who got pregnant, kicked out, dropped out, or whatever.  I was just a new mom and a year older.  On July 30, 1989, I left Timothy in the hospital, picked up my things from the maternity home, and with my mom, headed back to Michigan.  Timothy was adopted by a family who had already adopted two other children.  I had the opportunity to pick them out based on their profile without knowing their names or identifying information.  His new family changed his name from Timothy to Benjamin.  For 2 years after his birth, I received pictures and letters from his adoptive mother through the adoption agency.  Then they stopped.  I don’t think anything traumatic happened.  I think it was just time for all of us to move on.  It was time for him to be a son without baggage.  It was time for me to be a teenager without a child.

There’s no way to explain completely how this time in my life and the birth of Benjamin made me into the person I am today.  It’s inextricably linked, and I can’t imagine who or what I’d be without that experience.  A lot of people, when they are confronted with this part of my past, express sorrow or concern over me.  As many people pile accolades on me saying how strong I must have been.  That’s all very nice – very considerate.  The truth is, however, I am very grateful for having had the opportunity to meet Benjamin, even if only for two days.  I’m glad that there’s someone out there whose life was prayed over and considered.  I’m glad that he can hold on to the thought, no matter what happens, that one person thought his life was worth it and two more people thought he was worth welcoming into their family.  I also believe that we’re never given stuff that’s too much until we are, and then we’re given more strength than we can take credit for.

My birthday “season” is no longer my own, and I like it that way.  Every year, it’s a reminder that life is sacred and awesome and breathtaking.  I may not be particularly thrilled with extra pounds, extra wrinkles or grey hair, but I’m also reminded that all those things are a testament to being alive and engaging in a world that seems so alien and transient.

So, “Happy Birthday” to Benjamin (Timothy); and “Happy Birthday” to me; and “Happy Birthday” to you whenever your birthday is and no matter how old you are.

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