My birthday was two days ago, on Saturday. Up till then, I had half a dozen cards to pop onto my mantlepiece and enjoy. No further cards came in the Saturday delivery. Two more have come today. They are all of them very nice cards, with warm messages within. But three persons have not sent me a card.
One is my elderly aunt in South Wales. No particular worries about that: she is after all nearly ninety-three, and may well have much more important things on her mind than my birthday, even though she has never before missed sending me a card, not for the last sixty years. My worry or concern here is for her general wellbeing, and I might well give her a ring to see whether she is all right. I won't of course say a single word about my birthday, nor even my recent holiday - they are trivial things compared with her present life, and what she is still able to do. Let her do all the talking.
The next is M---. I'm not surprised. We haven't seen each other since a very brief doorstep meeting in January 2011. The relationship is long over, and the importance of it must be fading. Although we were a couple who never missed any of several anniversaries we shared, the world we had, and that sharing, have gone. On her side, when I last heard, only pain remains. There would be no point whatever in self-torturing her wounded heart by sending me a card.
It may be, for all I know, that M--- has found someone else to fill the gap, and help her rebuild what collapsed. If so, I'd be forgotten. Her focus would rightly be on what is current and real, not on what is past and no longer exists. Emotionally that's hard for me, to be consigned to the bin of history. And oddly I feel no great relief at the thought that I must now be absolutely free to move forward.
I do of course accept the blow, if M---'s silence does actually mean 'You are now out of my life, and I want you to stay out'. I would however prefer a letter or email giving me a definite farewell, something to mark a decisive ending. This is inconclusive. And M---'s own birthday is in August: what do I do? Just reciprocate by not sending her a card? How will she feel if I don't? And what will happen at Christmas? Or if we run into each other around the village? We both live there, and never seem to meet, but it must happen sometime.
The third person not to send a birthday card is my step-daughter A--- in New Zealand. Her visit to me with her husband and two children last year - it was my Sixtieth Birthday Family Gathering - wasn't as successful as I'd hoped. Perhaps she has decided that last year's event should mark the end of a thirty-year relationship that had been geographically distant since 2004, and in other respects had become increasingly tenuous. To her, I can be no more than someone she once knew who lives on the other side of the world, and is certainly no part of her everyday life. What then is the point of keeping up a connection?
As with M---, however, I'd prefer to have some communication from A--- that explains how she feels, and why a birthday card to me is no longer important. And I have exactly the same ongoing problem: A--'s birthday is also in August. And what do I do when Christmas comes?
I'm sure that many people like me have this Missing Birthday Card problem. It can signify many things: illness, forgetfulness, indifference, a falling out of favour, abandonment. With really old people it can indicate illness or death. None of these possibilities is good. Most of them suggest that someone else, someone you'd like to keep in touch with, no longer thinks the connection matters.
Well, life goes on; it can't spoil my day; but if my guesses are correct then a bit more sadness has been added to the heap that needs to be dealt with.