Today is Otto’s birthday. I wish he had more than one each year, because Otto is the kind of man who is content to tend to everyone else and put his own needs on the back burner to make sure that everyone else is okay. He deserves way more than 24 hours of being the Man Of Honor.
Of course, we kicked off his birthday week early with the gift of mucus. HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Remember how, before you lived with kids, you never got sick? No? Me neither. Here, I got you a box of decongestant. The GOOD kind, the kind I had to hand my first-born over to the pharmacist for. I’m sort of going to miss Chickie, but as she’s the one who brought this plague home, it seemed only fair. (Also, the pharmacist looked kind of scared.)
Anyway. Where was I going with this? (Woooo, I may have opened the decongestant box already. Good stuff, man. MY DESK IS SPROUTING FEATHERS.) Ah, yes. The point is that Otto is incredible and we don’t celebrate him nearly often enough. So today for his birthday I get to embarrass him.
Otto is, quite simply, the glue in this family. Sometimes we joke about how he’s a better wife than I am, and it’s not because he’s “girly,” it’s because I am often so single-mindedly focused on the MUST BE DONEs and HAVE TO DOs that I forget that we need to just spend time together having fun. He’s the one who suggests we duck out for a walk when the weather is nice in the evenings. He’s the one who sends me links to concerts with a simple, “Wanna?” He’s the one who asks the kids what they’d like to do over break, or who will look around the kitchen table and say, “Okay, if you could go ANYWHERE, what would you like to go see?”
Otto remembers that it’s not enough for our family to exist, or even just live, but that we also need to ENJOY it. That we have the RIGHT to enjoy it. He’s good at remembering that, and even better at reminding me in a way that doesn’t make me feel like I’m the worst person in the world for not always doing the same.
Otto wasn’t sure he wanted a dog. Not only is Licorice his best little buddy, I suspect he secretly loves it when we use the squeaky doggie voice to have Licorice exclaim, “Daddy’s home! MY ALPHA!”
Otto scolded us for feeding Licorice human food, in the beginning. Now he wouldn’t dream of eating an apple or a banana without sharing.
Otto was quite sure he didn’t want a SECOND dog, but agreed it could be good for the rest of us, and acquiesced. I’m pretty sure Duncan loves him best, because dogs know things about people, and are programmed to worship the ones most likely to be good pack leaders.
Otto complained about Duncan’s barking, then promptly made up a chase game with him specifically engineered to make him bark like crazy. Have you ever seen a tall man do a cartoon-chase run around the house in his slippers, trailed by a frantic, barking 20-pound dog? It’s a sight to see.
Otto told us that if we got another dog, he was allowed to get another car. We got our dog; he didn’t get a car. He brings it up periodically, but mostly to make the children roll their eyes.
Otto drives the kids back and forth without complaint. He gets up early to deliver Chickadee to weekend competitions and stays up late to fetch her from football games. He tells her not-quite-within-walking-distance friends that if it’s cold or dark he will drive them home, don’t they dare walk. He fetches a carload of loud boys for Monkey and later goes out to pick up pizza for them.
Otto exchanges emails with my dad; sometimes they’re about me. Sometimes they’re not. They enjoy each other, and I never knew how much that meant to me until I realized it was true.
Otto thanks me for doing things for the kids, and it’s not just to be nice, it’s because he really understands how much time and effort (and sometimes agonizing) goes into it, and he wants me to know he appreciates it even when they don’t.
Otto forgives those who’ve wronged him simply because that’s who he is, and he’d rather start over and hope for the best than stay mad. If he loves you, he’ll always focus on the good and forgive and forget the rest. Lucky us who are so loved by him.
Otto still makes me laugh, all these years later. “As long as we can laugh, it’s gonna be okay,” he tells me. We’re still laughing. He’s right. With him around, it’s a lot better than okay.
Happy birthday, Otto! You’ll always be older than me, and you’ll always be my favorite.