Call gave gift Facebook never could

Published 12:06 am Friday, July 13, 2012

I received more than 60 “Happy Birthdays” on Facebook Tuesday. Ever since I joined the social media site five or six years ago, I have come to expect a deluge of birthday greetings when the big day rolls around.

In recent years, Facebook has made sending these messages simple. They remind you each week of upcoming birthdays and provide a space on your homepage to complete the birthday greetings without visiting each friend’s page.

I am thankful for each and every greeting, but I sometimes wonder if they have made the process too easy. I know I have been guilty of sending a Facebook birthday message to a friend with little thought.

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I was reminded of this Tuesday when I received possibly the best present ever in the form of a birthday greeting.

At 44, I no longer expect people to make a big hullabaloo when July 10 rolls around. At my age, a simple birthday hello will do, and if you want to give me a gift, I won’t stop you.

For the last couple of weeks my son has been excited about Daddy’s birthday.

My wife has probed him with questions about what gift Gibson wanted to get. “Flower birthday,” has been his primary response.

Even though she tried hard to impress upon Gibson that he keep his gift idea a surprise, I learned of his plans a couple days before the big day. No longer able to keep it a secret, he just blurted it out one evening.

“Daddy going to have flower birthday,” Gibson said while playing with his trucks and trains. Realizing, my son may have spoiled his own surprise, I let my wife know of my discovery.

When the day rolled around, I didn’t know what to expect. The morning wasn’t much different from any other morning. Getting Gibson fed, dressed, out the door and headed to playschool some times means getting a cup of coffee and a muffin on the run. Tuesday was no different.

Being my birthday, I lingered over my breakfast at a local restaurant not knowing that Gibson and my wife were visiting my office with a vase full of flowers and a handmade birthday card.

Gibson came, not only to give his gift, but also to sing “Happy Birthday.”

I stayed at the restaurant so long that my wife and Gibson decided to leave the gifts behind with no song.

When I finally reached the office, I was pleasantly surprised with a vase of sunflowers. But the most memorable surprise would come four hours later in the middle of a busy afternoon.

“Mr. Hillyer this is Angie at Gibson’s day care,” the voice on the line said. “All day he has been wanting to call you to wish you a happy birthday. He would like to talk to you.”

She handed the phone to my son.

“Happy birthday daddy,” my son said on the other line.

A couple of days ago a friend remarked to me how having a child changes everything in life. She pointed out how suddenly everything revolves around this small life that has entered into the world.

“Yes. That is true,” I said.

But what may be the most amazing thing is how much this small human being revolves around you. It is awe-inspiring how much they look up to you and love who you are today — not who you were yesterday or who you will be tomorrow.

In a world where wishing someone a happy birthday is as easy as clicking a button on Facebook, it is humbling to know that my son’s biggest goal Tuesday was to wish his dad a happy birthday.

It is one of the greatest birthday gifts I have ever received. If only we all gave such gifts every year.


Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or by e-mail at