By Amy McCollom
Like most mornings, I awoke to the hissing of my CPAP machine blowing air into my mask and my lips sticking to my teeth from the dryness in my mouth. Without moving I opened my eyes and tried to gather my thoughts; what day is this? Ah yes, I remember now; January 8th, today is my birthday. My lands! I’m 57 years old! That must be why I’m achy and in pain. I just laid there and tried not to move.
It’s also my husband John’s birthday. I used to think that was pretty cool. But then after a few years it kind of sucked to have to share my birthday with someone. All my life I have had to share things with my siblings; my room, my clothes, jelly beans, pop, the limelight, just about everything. And now I can’t even have a birthday to myself, the one day that you are supposed to be recognized and loved and appreciated for being you…and I get half of that. Bah humbug.
But then several years ago I decided I didn’t mind so much. If I was going to share my birthday with someone, I couldn’t find a nicer guy and better friend to share that with. So it’s less about me, and more about us. Besides, John and I are humble people and we never vault ourselves up. It feels more natural to celebrate each other together than to be put on a pedestal and feel awkward.
As I was lying there that morning of my 57th birthday, and John’s 59th birthday, feeling achy and old, my mouth dry and hands swollen from arthritis, I watched as John got ready for work. The poor guy had to work on his birthday, and I hated that he had to do that. He was moving a little slow, but was steady and never complained.
His day always starts hours before mine. A lot of times I don’t hear his alarm clock over the whoosh of noise from my CPAP machine and the tinnitus that consistently fills my ears. John has a routine and he is very structured. Before he even reaches for his socks, the coffee is brewing and his lunch is ready in the fridge (having been prepped the night before.)
His breakfast is pre-made and ready to be microwaved for one minute, as he has been making his own healthy breakfast burritos for years now. In order to lower his sodium and sugar but increase his protein intake, he has researched and came up with his own personal recipe for a better breakfast burrito than those you can buy at the store. And they are cheaper! Sorry, secret recipe that we might patent someday.
I felt the bed move, so I rolled over and watched John “suit up.” Just like a SuperHero, he methodically put on his outfit for the day. Layer by layer he carefully pulled on each article of clothing, smoothing each one out. My super hero. If only the world knew him like I did.
The dark base layer over the t-shirt for added warmth, the two layers of socks, the way he buttoned down his shirt, pulled his belt through his pant loops, slid on the key ring, tied up his shoes on feet that would walk miles. As if he was readying for battle, in a way, he was doing just that. The battle of a job that few are willing to do. The United States Postal Service has been in desperate need of workers, but like most businesses now, has had trouble finding employees who will work hard and keep at it. Hard workers are a dying breed, it seems.
John wears his uniform with pride and dedication, and his job performance reflects that. Even on his birthday when he would rather spend it at home, eating steak with me, or lounging on the couch watching Netflix, he goes to work through freezing rain, wearing cleats on his feet to keep from falling, he told me later.
I must have drifted back off to sleep, because he startled me a little when he leaned over me for a kiss. John came into the room one more time, to kiss me goodbye, as he always does on Saturdays. He looked like a big ole bear, with his puffy coat, and hoodie, and trapper hat, and beard. I love that ole bear. He’s my hero.
God bless all the Mail Carriers and others who work out in the elements. It takes a special kind of dedication and strength to do such a job, and I for one am thankful and appreciative of people like that. May God keep you safe and warm, and may others recognize the heroes that you truly are.