A Different Kind of Birthday

Things were not going according to plan.

Three of our party of six were down for the count. The three happened to be the male members of the group. They were suffering from a food-borne illness easily traceable to fish tacos the night before. The women in the party (where did that term “fairer sex” come from?) were hale and hearty as always.

The plan — months in the making and now clearly unfeasible — was a big birthday bash for the lovely young woman pictured here. The “big” in the birthday bash was in honor of a milestone birthday. We won’t say which one, since a lady never reveals her age.

The bash would have involved a dinner at her favorite restaurant in Maui. There would have been copious amounts of wine involved. The day would have ended with a sunset and maybe even a little live music.

None of that was happening now.

Now, some people on their birthday faced with similar circumstances might lament with a cry of “why me?” But not this birthday girl. Since I know her pretty well, I can probably surmise as to why.

The first time I met this individual was on, coincidentally, her birthday. Well, it might have been a day or two after, I’m not really sure, since it was a long time ago and at that point in my life I was not conversant in days of the weeks, numbers, and, to be honest, I had no concept of life.


I do remember — at the age of three — the drive in our brown Rambler station wagon. We chugged up the hill to the hospital, Dad at the wheel. We swerved into the pickup area and a nurse was there with Mom in a wheelchair. Mom got into the car with a bundle in her arms.

I stood up and peaked over the seat to see what all the commotion was about. Mom pulled the blanket back to reveal the biggest mop of the curliest raven-black hair imaginable. It was clear my little sister planned to make a fashion statement to the world. Time would prove she intended to make more of a statement than that.

We come from a big family of nine kids. In order of appearance they are two girls, then four — count ’em — four boys all in a row. Then came this little curly haired girl before another girl and boy completed the ensemble. Mom thought this particular one was a delicate little thing and named her Francine Mary. We called her Frou Frou.

Frilly she was not. Sensitive, artistic, yes. But coming on the tail end of four boys was not easy. Teasing, shall we say, was commonplace. Frou learned to take it and dish it back. She learned to roll with the punches.

Fast forward an unspecified number of decades to this special day where she awoke at sunrise to be greeted by 1. A double rainbow in full, glorious technicolor and 2. The news that husband Mike (the guy who still looks a little pale in this photo) had had a very, very rough night.

So, without even a moment’s hesitation, she pronounced a Plan B. She soaked in the view for another moment and dashed off to the local store to pick up medical supplies for the wounded. After administering proper dosages to those in the makeshift hospital, she gathered up the girls and pronounced: “Let’s go snorkeling!”

The ladies did not think twice. They had been on a quest all week to witness some sea turtles in action. This seemed like as good a time as any.

(It should be noted, for the record, that the other female protagonists of this story also tended to their incapacitated spouses: Lecia, whose husband, Gene, you may remember from the previous episode, and Sherry, whose husband may or may not be the author of this story).

And so, off went the all-female army, in search of a decent snorkeling locale and, hopefully, to see a few of the leathery-bound reptiles. It was not easy finding a spot. Trails along precipitous cliffs and rocky shores led to nowhere. Private resorts posted large “Residents Only” signs at every other possible point of entry.

But Francine led the group, and kept their spirits high. It was a glorious day, after all. And a call from big brother Tom didn’t hurt. He informed Francine that he and his meditation group would be focusing their mental energies in her honor at 1 p.m.

Soon thereafter, the expedition found a promising beach, and it was open to the public. Braving the somewhat chilly waters, they began to swim out. Sure enough, soon thereafter, Francine found a large tortoise friend. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that he or she found her. Not only did he/she find her, he/she appeared to be swimming in tandem with her.

The ladies returned home and Sherry whipped up a batch of Congee for the still somewhat feeble male members of the party. If you are not familiar with this Asian dish, it is a type of rice porridge that can be a palliative for those suffering from stomach illnesses (usually due to an overindulgence of alcoholic beverages, but just what the doctor ordered in this case).

By day’s end, the boys seemed to be on the mend and the sun set on cue for the birthday girl.

That was simply a bonus to a day with double rainbows, good vibrations from the meditation crowd, and a dance with sea turtles.

She didn’t say it aloud, but I’m pretty sure Francine was thinking: Life doesn’t get any better than this.

Happy Birthday, Frou.

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