“This is the best birthday gift you have given me!”
Saathi beams as he chops vegetables and lifts his eyes to mine. I search for snark and find none. He truly is enjoying the breeze the portable fan in front of him is generating.
For years he would sit at the island, sweat beading above his brow and wishing there was a ceiling fan in the kitchen. Without fail, I would tell him we had fourteen ceiling fans in the house and there was not one in the kitchen for a reason. A few weeks ago, picking up prescription medication from Walgreens, I stopped by the discount aisle as has become a habit now. There are times I have scored coffee mugs at 90% off and giant stuffed bears for a dollar.
This fan caught my eye, discounted deeply, waiting for me to take it home. “Happy Birthday!” I said handing it to Saathi when he opened the door for me. He was skeptical but did not say a word or remind me that his birthday was more than a month away.
In the days since, I have served him dosa, the creamy almond chutney on the side, the breeze from the fan cooling the kitchen. We have stood around the island, the five of us, watching home videos, our bodies pressed together in one congealing mass, the air from the tiny fan making it bearable. He stands most days, his laptop on, stretching his legs occasionally as he works from home, starting tests, solving problems, his knitted brows somehow reminding me of this person who takes everything to heart.
In the years we have been married I have scoured for gifts knowing even as I wrap them that they would either be returned or relegated to the back of the closets. With time, I have relied on clothes to be my fallback option, his closet full of colors and graphic tees reflecting my taste.
Birthdays have become notional markers, a day to recognize the gift this man is to our family. To watch him slip out early in the morning to play tennis, to watch him sprawled on our well worn sectional, watching TV, to cut a homemade cake and implore him to taste it. To make cards by hand, to sing off key. To celebrate this good man.
So, today I watch him enjoy a gift I picked out for him and realize perhaps in the seventeen odd years, I finally have a measure of him.
Happy Birthday, dearest Saathi! May your life be filled with a breeze, always.