Yesterday was my 48th birthday. I woke with my wife wishing me a happy birthday, followed by a full-grown shepherd planting his elbows into my abdomen as he tried licking my face off. I grabbed a coffee and sat down to email. In the morning sort, I noticed a couple of messages from organizations that I willingly gave my birthdate and email address to years before. A dentist’s office that I never returned to after an initial consultation that resulted in a 10K investment to make my teeth “perfect.” I’d decided that I’m ok with imperfect. Another was from a Range Rover parts warehouse, even though I no longer own a Range Rover. I don’t have the heart to unsubscribe, however. They’re nice wishes even though they’re automated. Besides, one day, should the whole world turn its back on me (or vice versa), I know that I’ll always get those emails on my birthday. I then switched over to social media where I started a long day of thanking people who were kind enough to wish me a happy day. Social media is pretty amazing on your birthday.

My daughters woke and each greeted me with a hug and happy wishes. Before I left for work I noticed a big note taped to my front license plate. I left it on, and it actually lasted the whole day.

At work, my colleagues got me an ice cream cake and sang to me. Evidently they’ve picked up on the fact I say *conundrum* a lot. I don’t like using the word *problem.* Opening my lunch, there were little notes inside from both girls. They really wanted me to have a great birthday, and in the afternoon they kept calling me asking me to come home. As I entered the driveway,  I saw a note taped to our front door that said, ‘Happy Birthday.’ Inside the house there were notes instructing me to follow other notes. Some of these notes were even attached to our dogs. When I did eventually make it into my office, I was greeted with a room full of balloons. There were red, green and purple balloons. Small and large balloons. Even those skinny balloons that you twist into different shapes. There were also balloons strung across the doorway along with a homemade banner. As i stood in my office the girls jumped out and yelled, “Surprise!” They then pointed me in the direction of another note that pointed me to my closet. I slowly opened the door to my closet and heard the girls laughing behind me. Out of the closet poured even more colorful balloons. “Go check your bathroom, Daddy.” My youngest said. I walked into our master bath, but didn’t see any balloons. “Look everywhere.” My oldest instructed. And then I saw them in the shower.

I was beside myself. It was the best surprise ever. “Do you like it, Daddy?” they beamed. Of course I did. It was brilliant. “How many balloons are there?” I asked.

“Forty seven.” the oldest girl responded. “There were forty eight, but one popped.”

“And you blew them all up yourselves?” I asked.

“Yup. We went to WalMart with Nona to get them this morning and spent all afternoon getting things ready for you. It was hard blowing up balloons.”

I marveled at their work. My wife came home, and we went out to dinner with some dear friends, then returned home for cake in the land of balloons. Forty seven reminders of how much I’m loved by two people on this planet.

“Was it the best birthday ever, Daddy?” my youngest asked as I tucked her in bed last night.

“It really was.” I responded. “Maybe even as good as the day I was born.”

“Did you love the presents?” She asked, referring to a new bath rug set she picked out, and new underwear her sister selected for me.

“Indeed. The presents were spectacular. I’ll use them every day.” I said. “But the thing I loved the most was the balloons.”

“There were forty eight of them, you know.” she said. “One popped.”


Jim Mitchem I’m so lucky. Thank you for being part of my life as I continue making my way through it.

The Worst Day
Deconstructing Hope

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.