I hate my birthday.

It’s not the Over The Hill jokes, that weird “ma’am” I get at high school basketball games, or even the fact that it’s increasingly likely I’ll wake up sore from sleeping weird. That’s right, I injure myself sleeping now, but even that’s not enough to make me hate my birthday.

These days my birthday reminds me of celebrating it in hospice two days before my mom died. Whoa, Laura, way to bring down a room.

It’s not like I was a rah rah birthday person before. Sure, as a girl I was all about celebrating because hello! Friends and presents and cake and ice cream? What’s not to love? My favorite birthday was either the year a dozen friends piled into our family room for a sleepover or the time we took a group to Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour and gorged ourselves on some crazy sweet concoction like this one. Mmm.

But as a grownup I kind of chilled out about the whole thing. Basically I wanted a card – I have an absurd love of inappropriate birthday satire – and dinner out because cooking yourself dinner on your birthday should be a fineable offense. BrightSide was even more low maintenance than I was. Unless we had a family gathering that demanded jocularity we were perfectly happy to cheer on the finish of another year in our own way.

Then in 2016 my mom was admitted to hospice at the beginning of my birthday week. By that time she’d already spent at least a week in the hospital and I was running on fumes. It was a terrible time, one where I constantly felt like I needed to be where I wasn’t, and I’d realized I was entirely unprepared to lose a parent. Putting one foot in front of the other became a valid coping strategy.

Then the day before my birthday arrived and to my utter shock I learned we’d be having a party – pizza, cake, the whole shebang. There’s no way to overstate how much I did not want to celebrate my birthday in any way whatsoever. I mean, if I could have conjured up a time warp to hop us from the 20th to the 22nd I would have. Shoot, I would have traded aging five years to skip having to smile my way through that damn Happy Birthday song. There just wasn’t any reserve left in my energy bank.

I’d like to say I knew my birthday was going to be ruined either way and this was important to my dad so that’s why I did it. That I agreed maintaining a sense of normalcy was important for the kids or the family or whatever. But the truth is it’s far more likely I was shellshocked, and since I have a history of not prioritizing my needs I just went along to get along. Do I regret it? Who knows. It is what it is. But that last birthday with mom is haunting and I just can’t seem to shake it.