At Doug's insistence, we usually celebrated the entire Birthday Month surrounding his birth date. He said he invented this concept. (He also thought he invented the skateboard.) It meant he could get his way all month long, within reason. However, one year he got so greedy that I made him forfeit the next year's birthday month.

They 50's.
Stu, Doug, Barb, Fred and Ron turning 50th, at the 2007 bash. MORE
Doing a Doug.
Doing a Doug. Notice beer above.
mother daughter
Mother and daughter (Karlene and Therese) do shots, while dad drools over seven-layer bars. Doug and I picked up these shot necklaces on a trip to San Antonio. We all wore them for Mom and DadZ's surprise 50th wedding anniversary get together.
I made this same birthday cake recipe for a surprise birthday party I held for Doug 20 years ago. It wasn't decorated as nicely though. Notice the butterflies.
Fireworks! Thank you Trevor!
Pooped partier
Pooped partier
Born happy
Doug was born happy

I usually forgot about my own birthday - I even forget how old I am. When I didn't remember it was my Birthday Month until a few days beforehand, I could never talk him into letting me have extra credit or an extension. He said it was only good for the calendar month our birthdays occurred in. He claimed that since he invented it, he got to make the rules.

Doug never forgot my birthday, or his family's birthdays.He would pick out cards and special gifts a month or more in advance. Although he was a manly man, he had a wonderfully sentimental, sappy side - one of the many things I loved about him. He inherited this from his thoughtful and caring mother.

They say the first birthday without your loved one is hard. So far, there haven't been any days that are NOT hard. I decided I didn't want to spend this one moping alone. (See healing rituals.)

If all had gone as planned, this could have been his first birthday in retirement - he would have turned 53. I had already gotten him a great big birthday card, which had King Kong on it and said "you look like a monkey and smell like one too," which is how Doug usually ended the Birthday Song.

Shortly after life went to hell in a hand basket, I decided we should hold a gathering of the 'hood and family in honor of Doug's birthday. After the services, I didn't have room for everybody to come back to the house, so it was just family and climbing friends from out of town. The 'hood has been so wonderful during all this, I wanted to do a combo gratitude/birthday celebration for nearby family and the neighbors who knew Doug well. Most of them had been there for the grand 50th party.

My sister said it was a We-Wish-You-Were-Still-Here Doug birthday party. Ala Doug, it was a potluck BYOB drunkfest. My goal was to get very drunk (since I was drinking for two). After one party at our house, Doug was so plastered he slept in the driveway in his underwear.

The weather forecast was hot (96) and humid. I didn't care. We could be down in the Thunderstormcourtyard where there was usually a breeze . We could move inside if need be.

Initially, I couldn't decide whether to start at 3 p.m., or 4 or 5. I went with 5, which turned out to be a good thing. At 3 on the nose, there was a terrific thunderstorm, with dire Weather Channel warnings of deadly lightning and hail and the need to immediately seek shelter. I figured either the sky was crying, or the lawn wanted to start drinking early.

Shortly afterwards, it cleared up completely and the skies were blue. Just like our wedding day.

At 5 p.m. on the dot, I started drinking Long Island Ice Teas. They were mostly vodka. I got pretty obnoxious. I also learned that Sketchers (the new style of sneaker with a rounded bottom) were not good Drunk Shoes. Wearing them is sort of like standing on a volleyball, which can be challenging under normal circumstances.

I wasn't the only one imbibing. Even Terri's mom did a shot. We used the shot necklaces Doug and I had picked up at mardi gras in San Antonio while on a bluebirding conference adventure for my 50th.

People brought awesome food and drinks. Without knowing it, Bobby brought a bottle of what had been our Wedding Wine - Ballet of Angels.

I had made a chocolate mayonnaise cake like the one I made for a surprise birthday party I organized for Doug 19 years ago, and again for his 50th in 2007. This time, I messed up the icing when I was blathering on the phone. I left out a crucial ingredient and had to scrape the icing off the cake and remix it. When I turned the sheet pan sideways to scoop it off, the cake slumped and smushed together.

I asked Jennifer to disguise and decorate it. It was so hot, the icing kept melting and sliding onto the sides. However, she did a beautiful job. She even put on homemade chocolate ducks and butterflies. We used the candles with multi-colored flames that I had bought before this happened.

I also made Grassy Lemon Bars. This was a favorite recipe Paula shared with me. Once I baked them for a gathering at the Hansen's. I had my hands full of other stuff, so I asked Doug to carry the bars while we traversed the Christmas tree field in between our houses. He accidentally dumped the plate upside down onto newly mown grass. While I screeched at him loudly enough for the whole 'hood to hear, he retrieved them, but they were covered with grass - hence the name Grassy Lemon Bars.

In the tradition of Doing a Doug, there was another small disaster. I was teasing Terri and her mom for sitting in the kitchen blabbing when we were supposed to be getting ready for the party. Karlene proudly told me to look in the frig to see their completed handiwork. I opened the door and a big platter of fresh veggies spilled out all over the floor. The platter had been precariously balanced on beers being chilled. We went with Doug's "three second rule" and scooped it all up, washed it and rearranged it in a more haphazard pattern.

I wore one of Doug's shirts from the Woodstock Memorial Day 10K's. It was hole-ridden from battery acid and covered with grease and Gorilla Glue.

We ate and drank, talked, sweated, cried and laughed. Joe said every time he heard Doug's brother Glen laugh, he thought it was Doug. Bob squirted mustard all over his shirt. Fortunately it was already yellow. I got so blitzed that I forgot to have everyone play Fluffy Bunny.

After dark, Trevor did a spectacular fireworks display from the Christmas tree field. It was two-year old Sophie's first experience with fireworks. She watched on her dad Keith's shoulders. At first she was scared, but later seemed to enjoy it. Neighbor kids down the road must have been watching too. We heard them cheering and clapping. One cranky passerby cussed Trevor out as he drove by, I think because there was residual smoke on the road. (The guy was driving too fast anyway.)

Before we had the birthday cake, I read a wonderful letter I had gotten from a friend of Doug's. It pretty much summed him up. We lifted our glasses in a toast to Doug. (Doug's favorite toast was the Post Office one - "Here's looking up your old address!") I cried of course. I so wanted him to be there. He would have enjoyed it all. I blew out the candles, while making a wish that will never come true.

Folks stumbled home late that night. DadZ, Glen, Terri and I stayed and talked and drank by the ring of fire until early morning. Since I am not a hardened criminal like Doug, I almost barfed.

It was yet another fitting celebration of Doug's joyful life.

I missed Doug again the next day. He always took the lead on cleaning up the carnage. My head hurt too much to do it. Most of the kitchen mess is still there. My mom did all the dishes for the three weeks she stayed with me. It's so hard to care about the little stuff any more. It can wait.

Since I can't buy gifts for him anymore, I like the idea of making a donation each year in his name to an organization he believed in.

Tonight Doug's parents and I will go to Mohegan Sun casino to celebrate. We always got together for our birthdays. I see no reason to stop now. I figure I will blow the amount of money on the machines what I normally spent on Doug's presents. I had to laugh when my friend Caren (with a C) left a message to call her if we won a car (MomZ did once.)


PS I didn't win a car, but I did make enough on a bowling slot machine to pay to repair the camera I broke after losing Doug. Doug and I had gone bowling with the C family a few weeks earlier, so that's how I picked that machine.




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