A Birthday Phone Call

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I ventured outside to gather the Sunday papers, failing miserably in my attempt to dodge the raindrops. I know I’m old-fashioned, but I love reading the Sunday papers in the print version. We were heading into the second half of the most miserable Memorial Day weekend, as the rain was going to put the kibosh on another day of planned barbecues.

With my wife away visiting friends upstate for the weekend and my lousy back preventing me from joining them, it was just me and Louie the Labrador for breakfast on Sunday. Since I have been watching my girlish figure, I prepared some fresh fruit and had a whole pot of coffee to myself. Next, I scrambled an egg for Louie to administer his daily drop of CDB oil to help with his aches and pains. From what I know about CDB oil, he was going to have a pleasant morning.

While perusing the sports section, my cell phone buzzed. Since the telephone number was not in my address book, I only had the number and area code to help me make the “answer or don’t answer” decision. I don’t usually answer any call from a number my phone doesn’t even recognize. However, since I wasn’t getting a lot of human communication out of Louie, I took a chance. I answered with a tentative, “Hello?”

“Happy Birthday Nicky!” came the excitement on the other end of the line, as I heard two distinct voices shouting. But, unfortunately, it wasn’t my birthday and I wasn’t Nicky. They then proceeded to sing happy birthday to me. I tried to interrupt to let them know they had the wrong number, but they weren’t paying me any attention at all.

“Happy Birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday dear Nicky; Happy Birthday to you!!!”

Before I could say anything, the woman took over the celebratory phone call and identified herself as my Aunt Joanie. Her voice was craggy, with an authentic New York accent that had spent way too many years smoking cigarettes. She told me she was with Uncle Carl, who chimed in with a hearty, Brooklyn-like, “How you doin, Nicky!” Aunt Joanie then proceeded to tell me how much they loved me and missed me and were looking forward to seeing me very soon.

I wasn’t sure how to break the news to Aunt Joanie that she had the wrong number.

I mean, she had gone through all that trouble to choreograph the birthday song with Uncle Carl (who, by the way, needs a little work on the harmonies) and was so proud of her nephew. I didn’t have the heart to tell her the bad news. So, I kind of eased into it.

“Aunt Joanie, thank you so much,” I told her.

“You’re welcome, my beautiful Nicky,” she answered.

“But I’m not Nicky,” I said solemnly. “You must have dialed the wrong number.”

Incredibly, she was unfazed. Isn’t that just like Aunt Joanie? She wasn’t embarrassed at all, although Uncle Carl went quiet. As a matter of fact, it was quite the opposite reaction.

“Oh, that’s OK, Honey,” she said, “You have a blessed day and enjoy yourself.”

I asked her what number she was trying to call to see if she made a mistake dialing or just had the wrong number. Turns out she misdialed by one digit.

“I’m so sorry for bothering you,” she said.

I told her it was no bother and that Nicky was lucky to have an Aunt and Uncle like them to remember his birthday. I told her I’m 64 years old and my mother still calls me to sing “Happy Birthday” every year.

She thanked me again for my indulgence and asked when my birthday was. I laughed and told her it was in February. “If I remember,” she said happily, “We’ll call you next year!”

And she gave me that big, hearty laugh that only Aunt Joanie could give.

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