This magazine will land on your doorstep sometime in early January, which should give you ample time to get me a present for my 54th birthday on February 5. Often, as people age, they tell their family and friends not to bother with their birthday, that gifts aren’t necessary, that they shouldn’t make a fuss. I’m not one of those people. I love being fussed over and given gifts. In fact, I’ve set aside the entire day so people will have ample opportunity to do nice things for me. Since you asked, let me suggest a few of the things you could do to improve my special day.
I wake up each morning around 5. That isn’t my preference, but our dog stands at our bedroom door and whines to be taken outside to pee. For some reason, that job has fallen to me. If you’re having a hard time thinking of what to get me, you can come take our dog out at 4:55 a.m., before it has scratched on our bedroom door. We don’t lock our house, so come in the back door, whistle for the dog — very quietly so as not to waken me — and walk it up to the empty lot.
If it’s raining, you’ll have to bring your own umbrella, since I left mine on an airplane. It was made in England, and I’d had it nearly 25 years. When you come to let our dog out, you can bring me a new umbrella. Not one of those cheap ones you get at CVS or Walmart, but a nice one, a gentleman’s walking umbrella, made in England by James Ince & Sons Ltd., maker of fine umbrellas since 1805. I won’t lie to you; they’re not cheap. It’ll set you back a couple of hundred dollars, but I think our friendship is worth it, don’t you? If you order it today, it should get here in plenty of time for my birthday. Even if it’s a day or two late, I understand and won’t hold it against you.
If dogs and umbrellas aren’t your thing, I’ve been needing my garage cleaned for some time. It has dirty slush on the floor, mixed in with sawdust left over from a summer project. When our younger son moved out last year, he left a lot of stuff behind in the garage and no longer seems interested in it. It depresses me to look at it; so if you could haul it away, I’d be grateful. There are some half-empty paint cans out there, dried into solid chunks. You can take those away, too. If some of the paint is still good, maybe you could touch up the house, as long as you’re here.
About 10 years ago, I bought two nice bikes for my wife and me. They’re out in the garage too. We haven’t ridden them in five years, so the tires are flat and they’re covered with dust. I don’t like admitting it, but we’ll never ride them again. Getting rid of them feels like an admission of failure, a recognition that we’re fat, lazy, and stupid, and not likely to change; so there they sit, taking up valuable space. If, for my birthday, you want to buy them from me for $200 apiece, that would be a nice present.
Since my birthday is in mid-winter, gifts of firewood are always welcome. My supply is running thin by February, since I start burning wood early, usually the first cold night in early October. Five ricks of wood for my birthday would see me through to spring. Don’t be cheap about it, or try to pawn off four ricks as five, like a typical sneaky firewood seller. A rick of wood should measure 8 feet long, 4 feet high, and roughly 16 inches wide. I’ll be measuring it, so don’t try to cheat me on my birthday.
By early February, I’m getting tired of Indiana’s cold and snow, so if any of you have a place in the Caribbean and want to let me borrow it for the month of February, that would be especially considerate. I would prefer it came with a maid. There’s nothing worse than having to do your own laundry the month of your birthday.
Now let’s talk about cake. I have diabetes, so my wife isn’t likely to bake me one. I like chocolate cake with chocolate icing, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. I don’t need an entire cake, just one smallish, diabetes-friendly piece. You can give the rest of it to someone else or eat it yourself. That will be my gift to you, which I hope helps you appreciate how doing something nice for my birthday helps both of us.