Tomorrow, June 4th, would have been my mother's birthday. The next day. June 5th, would have been my father's birthday. Today, June 3rd, would have been my brother Ronnie's birthday.
I was only 3 1/2 years old when Ronnie was born, and I didn't know anything about "due dates" and things like that, but I do wonder if Mom and Dad were wondering late in that pregnancy whether their #4 child would have the same birthday as one of them. He instead, fortunately, had his own distinct birthday.
The problem, though, with having three birthdays in a row in the same family was making sure that each was properly celebrated, that we didn't develop birthday-overload. It's kind of like people who have a birthday on December 26: how do you properly celebrate a birthday when everybody is worn out from Christmas?
My parents came up with an ingenious answer. Instead of having birthday cake with the same traditions three days in a row, a tradition was started that we would have strawberry shortcake every year on Ronnie's birthday. It came during strawberry season here in NJ, and everybody loved strawberry shortcake in our family, so Ronnie's birthday became one of our favorite dates of the year. The tradition continued through his whole life.
While I was visiting Ronnie in the hospital a couple weeks ago, he was told by the doctors that because he was so susceptible to bacteria, he couldn't have any more fresh fruit and vegetables. The first thing he thought was, "How am I going to have strawberry shortcake on my birthday?" He, unlike me, always looked forward to that next birthday. And later he asked me sadly, "I'm still going to be here in the hospital on my birthday, aren't I?"
Well, he was wrong, he isn't still in the hospital today, his birthday. He's out of that place. I just hope that somehow in the spirit world, they have access to Jersey strawberries and Bisquick. For us that are left, we are all getting together this evening for a celebration of Ronnie, complete with strawberry shortcake.
Tomorrow, we bury this sweet man. On June 4th, our mom's birthday.