I knew Mariam when she turned fifty. She wasn’t extremely happy about that “milestone” to say the least. When President Bill Clinton turned fifty (he celebrated up here in Lake Placid), he was asked how it felt. His reply: “It’s kind of sad knowing that more of your life is behind you and not in front of you.” Those may not have been his exact words, but you get the point.
When I turned fifty (I’m about two years younger than Mariam), she threw me a surprise party at an Irish Pub in New York City. No one ever did that for me before.
I was there when she turned sixty. Her thoughts were on retirement. She’s still working part-time! Because her birthday fell on August 3, we were often in some strange place on vacation. Once we celebrated on Cape Cod with the best lobster we’ve ever eaten. [Note to reader: It was the Lobster Barn in Orleans]. Another time we had her birthday dinner at a nice hotel restaurant in Albany. I took the head waiter aside and told him I’d like a cake delivered to our table after dessert was ordered. He said: “No problem, sir,” in a conspiratorial whisper. After we finished the main course, I nodded at the waiter. Three other waiters came in and delivered the birthday dessert…to the wrong table! And, it wasn’t what I had ordered.
They charged us anyway. Aren’t those little things supposed to be “on the house?”
We recently had a little “debate” about if she was a true “Boomer” or not. She said that since she was born in 1945, that was too early to be a boomer. I was born in 1947, which puts me into that group without question. So, I Googled “Boomer” and found two studies, one put the first boomers as being born in 1945. Another said that 1946 was the start of that generation. We both won the “debate”.
Now, today, she turns seventy. It’s unsettling to Mariam to think of herself as seventy. She has outlived both her parents and she is feeling the aches and pains of age.
She works in health care. She has a way with people that is hard to describe. When she came to Owego, New York for the first time to meet my family, my mother was at Robert Packer Hospital, dying of lung cancer. My father, two brothers and myself stood around the room not knowing what to do about my mother. We were never very good at open affection. The first thing Mariam did was to walk up to my mother and kiss her on the forehead and pull her covers to her chin. The men just stood and watched.
I decided to illustrate this post with our wedding photo. It was an informal shot made on the steps of the Columbia University Library. We were married at the chapel on campus. But this isn’t a wedding blog. It’s a birthday piece. So, why the wedding photo?
It’s here for several reasons. I wanted all of my friends and readers of this post to know how lucky I was finding such a beautiful woman. Look at the two of us. I look like I just failed an audition for “Welcome Back Kotter” and had the general appearance of an Upper West Side psychoanalyst. She, on the other hand, looks spectacular. She is wearing a waxen head-piece that her mother wore when she was married. Mariam, as many of you may know, was a professional opera singer years ago. She sang at Avery Fisher Hall once and there is a photo of her somewhere in an album of her sitting on Pavarotti’s ample lap with his ample arm around her petit shoulders. She hung out with the “big guys” as they say.
One morning, after she had attended my Science Fair at Town School in Manhattan (where I taught), I was walking into my lab. My sixth grade was lined up along the wall. I overheard one boy say to another as I sipped my tea (while walking at the same time): “Did you see Mr. Egan’s wife last night? She’s glamorous.”
“Yes,” I thought to myself as I opened the lab door to begin class, “she is glamorous.”
Happy Birthday, Mariam, my glamorous wife.