Yesterday was Will's 33rd birthday. We both took the day off work. The plan was to drop Katie off at school and spend the day together. We were going to have lunch at a fancy restaurant, one that we can't afford to go to for dinner. We were going to hang out as a couple and do whatever we pleased.
Plans never follow my script. Life is constantly reminding me that it prefers improv, not a scripted play.
The day before yesterday Katie came home from school feeling "yucky". She didn't have a fever, but I had her lie on the sofa and rest. Within an hour she had pus coming out of one eye. I called Ask-a-Nurse. She said it sounds like pink eye. She had me write down instructions for home-care and told me to take Katie to her doctor in the morning.
"Be sure to warn your daughter that it will probably spread to both eyes and to expect that her eyes will be stuck shut when she wakes up in the morning," the nurse said.
I appreciated that advice the most, since it never would have occurred to me to tell Katie this, and I can imagine it would freak out a seven-year-old to wake up with their eyes stuck shut.
Sure enough, Katie's eyes were stuck shut in the morning. After fifteen minutes in the bathroom with a warm, wet washcloth trying to wash the eye boogers from Katie's eyes, I saw Will stir in bed.
"Happy birthday, Daddy!" I yelled.
"Thank you," he said, sleepily.
The poor guy. That was about the highlight of his day, right there: his wife yelling "Happy Birthday" at him while cleaning crusted mucus from their kid's eyes.
I took Katie to the doctor so Will could at least sleep in on his birthday. The doc confirmed Katie has pink eye.
"A really bad case!" the doc said when I told her I had already washed the goo from Katie's eyes first thing this morning.
"Oh my gosh! I thought you guys saved it for me to see. If that's built up in an hour, she's got a really bad case of pink eye!"
She wrote a prescription for antibiotic eye drops and told me to give her Tylenol if she develops an ear ache or head ache. Call Friday if she hasn't improved.
I dropped Katie off at home so I could go fill her prescription. While at the pharmacy I picked up some strawberry flavored lube, figuring since the birthday present I had ordered for Will hadn't come in the mail yet, I could surprise him with a little something sweet.
I got home and handed Will the bottle of strawberry flavored lube. I wiggled my eyebrows at him and he wiggled his back at me.
Katie camped out on the couch most of the day, resting. She did indeed develop an ear ache and her throat hurts and her nose is both runny and stuffy. There was no way the three of us could go out to eat for Will's birthday. Nor could we ask someone to babysit and risk getting sick themselves. The doc had said pink eye is highly contagious.
"What do you want to eat for your birthday?" I asked Will.
Katie was in the room, on the couch watching a DVD on TV, so he wiggled his eyebrows at me and mouthed the word, "you". I giggled.
Will smiled and cleared his throat.
"What kind of food would you like to eat on your birthday," I rephrased my question.
"Steak and mashed potatoes," Will said without hesitation. The poor guy. Living with me, someone who hasn't had beef since 1989, has rubbed off on him too much. He rarely eats beef anymore unless we eat out, and it's rare we can afford to buy him a steak. The guy certainly deserves a nice steak for his birthday.
"I can make you a steak!" I exclaimed.
He didn't quite roll his eyes, but he looked away in a way that made me think he was trying not to laugh. I am not a good cook. I make lousy tomato soup. Canned tomato soup. I always put in too much milk or not enough milk or I accidentally use vanilla soymilk or something. The fact that I don't eat beef, let alone cook with it, might be the reason Will looked like he wanted to burst with laughter.
"I can cook a steak!" I began defending myself.
"You don't want to cook me a steak," Will said. I know what he really meant was, I don't want you to cook me a steak.
"Yes I do! I want to do that for you for your birthday!" I said.
Will took a deep breath and said nothing, looking over toward Katie on the couch. I could tell he was disappointed he would miss out eating at Ruths' Chris or some other fancy place where he could have a real chef make him a steak.
"I guess I could order you a steak to-go from somewhere," I offered.
Will said "yeah" but in a half-hearted way. I pictured him opening a Styrofoam carton and piercing a halfway cold steak with his fork.
"I'm going to make you a steak!" I announced.
"OK," Will said like a question, like I had just told him I was going to go change the oil in our car and he knew I'd be inside in two minutes asking where I'm supposed to unscrew the cap.
I was at the grocery store far too long. I rarely go to the grocery store alone. With Will and Katie at home, I took my time walking up the aisles, browsing all the selections. It felt good to feel unrushed. I drive most people insane when they go to the grocery store with me. I over-analyse everything. Well this one is cheaper but this one is organic. This one is local but this one is non-gmo. This one is low-fat but this one is sugar free.
My inner anorexic tries to conjure her OCD label-reading ways whenever I enter a grocery store.
But this time was different. I wasn't shopping for health and nutrition. I was shopping for my husband's unplanned birthday party. I went crazy. I bought everything on the shelves I could remember him at one point in our relationship taking a bite of and saying, "Mmm, this is good."
I spent $115. Probably more than we would have spent at lunch at Ruths' Chris. But damn, I got Doritos! And cake and ice cream! And Texas Toast! And Hawaiian Sweet Rolls! If it weren't for the KC Strip steak in the cart one might look at the contents and think the theme of our party was carbs.
I finally got dinner ready at 8:30. Will said the steak was delicious. I had never broiled a steak, so, instead of bugging the birthday boy with questions, I watched this video:
It was easier than I thought it would be. Here's the final result:
But hold up. Not everything went so well. I forgot to make gravy. I personally think gravy is disgusting, so I always forget to make it when I mash potatoes. But this meal wasn't about me. It was about Will. So I screwed up. The thing about cooking I need to work on the most is becoming more empathetic. Just because I don't like to eat something doesn't mean I should avoid cooking it for my loved ones.
Will's birthday cake turned out pretty good. He loves white cake with white icing. Katie decorated it with those candy letters you can buy in the candle aisle. She ate the ones we didn't need to spell out Happy Birthday Will.
His present never arrived in the mail. I checked the tracking online and it said they attempted to deliver it and we should check for instructions left in our mailbox. No instructions were left in our mailbox. What the hell? I wanted Will to know what he was getting for his birthday, so I spoiled the surprise and told him. A Roku 3 Streaming Media Player. I don't know exactly what it is, but the site said it works on virtually all TVs. It's been about three years since we ditched cable. Back then we made plans to buy a Roku box, but we had never gotten around to it.
"It will be like cable! We can watch shows on TV again!" I announced. "You can watch your favorite online shows on TV too, I think."
Will had the same look in his eye as when I told him I was going to make him a steak. Like he was thinking I'm not so sure I want this Luddite buying me a Roku box.
We were all excited--at least Will faked it--until the package arrived today and we discovered "virtually" does not mean "all" TVs. Our old ass TVs don't have the right connection.
"I'm such a shitty wife! I can't even buy you a birthday present that works," I complained.
Will just smiled and assured me that it's OK. There's some sort of $20 adaptor he can get and it will hook up our old ass TV to this Roku box. I almost suggested we look at the thrift shop for one, but I kept my mouth shut.
In the meantime, Will's fine with sitting in front of the fire in his mancave, reading a library book by the light of the window above. I love my patient, easy-going man.
I don't know why he loves me. Trust me, forgetting the gravy and buying him a device he cannot use is not the worst thing that I did for my husband's birthday. The worst thing I did is, after getting him all excited by handing him some strawberry lube and wiggling my eyebrows and all that, I fell asleep while tucking our sick kiddo into bed. At 9PM. Before we got a chance to try out the strawberry lube.
"I am the worst wife ever," I whispered into Will's ear after I woke up at 3AM. I'd fallen asleep on him. I couldn't believe it.
"No you're not," Will whispered back in his deep, sleepy voice.
I looked at the clock. "It's no longer your birthday. Is it too late to give you some birthday love?" I snuggled my head into his chest.
"No, it's not too late."
We got out of bed and snuck off to Will's mancave where we stayed up til dawn talking, laughing, and finally getting to try out the strawberry flavored lube. Late and unplanned, but still lovely and fun.