my birthday

my birthday

i have a tricky relationship with the date i was born. for most people, your birthday is an obvious reason to celebrate [for example, my cousin gene insists on having a party on her exact birthday regardless of the day of the week].

don’t get me wrong, i’ve had some epic parties and wonderful memories on my date of birth but in true “robin fashion”, it’s more complicated than that.

my 26th birthday meant a trolley ride packed with rowdy friends driving around chicago and ended with me confessing my love for casey – oof, that was a good one. here's some pics...

did you spot the flip phone?

but... in addition to the parties, for as long as i can remember, i assumed i was born on friday the 13th.

and... well into my adult life, i actively told people that was the case every chance i got:

  1. any time my birthday was looming
  2. when anything wildly unlucky happened to me [as they often do]

other times, i hid my birthday entirely to avoid talking about it in certain scenarios. [like at work .. i hated co-workers discussing when i was born.]

for over 30 years, i told the same story: “i was born on friday the 13th. i bet it was a full moon, too.”

let's remember, this is before the days of: “alexa – what day of the week was june 13, 1984?”

[yep, i’m well aware that my once-unique and rarely-spoken middle name is now the ubiquitous know-it-all. random fact: i also used to tell some of my closest friends i didn’t have a middle name. i have no idea why. sorry, megan... it had nothing to do with you and everything to do with me.]

so why did i assume i was born on a friday?

because i've had some extremely unfortunate events happen in my life. many of these would be considered remarkable on their own [stories for another day post] and when strung together, they leave little doubt: i’m not clumsy or risky but definitely (un)lucky.

or so i always thought [and relentlessly joke(d) about].

for as long as i can remember, i was told by my grandma that my birthday was "a very bad day." i love(d) my grandma dearly [gramma e, you'll remember, is the grandma of the "four evil cousins" and mother to "the four brothers."]

i certainly know that she was not intentionally trying to hurt me ... but when you’re a kid, it's hard not to take that personally. it was also not just one year. it was every year. every birthday. the day that everyone else grows up celebrating themselves, became a day of consistently unanswered questions, pain and hurt.

have you looked up what day of the week june 13, 1984 was, yet? [or asked alexa ...? ]

it wasn’t a friday. i literally confirmed that for the first time while writing righting this.

my immediate reaction —-> if i wasn’t born on friday the 13th, surely, my 3rd birthday was a friday ... because that date will forever be known as the worst day in haugen family history.

here’s my understanding of the events of june 13, 1987 ...

[please note: i’ve only recently started asking about the full story and it’s been tough piecing details together. i hate bringing it up. my uncle harvey would never talk about it. in fact, my birthday was the one day of the year we all knew to leave harv alone. my oldest sister, Q, gave me the most details. she was 8. my dad has begun opening up, but again, it’s just not something anyone likes to discuss.]

on what i always assumed was friday, june 13 1987, our family had a simple gathering in the afternoon at our house on maple street.

let me repeat that. it was the middle of the afternoon. 

my uncle harvey attended his [youngest of four] niece’s 3rd birthday as a 35-year-old bachelor who lived on the edge and tempted fate on a regular basis. he had wild curly hair and the greatest laugh in the midwest. [you can be sure i will be telling more harv stories throughout.] my dad always says that if the accident on june 13, 1987 didn’t happen, harv’s lifestyle would’ve killed him. that’s how close to the edge he lived. [i can't help but believe that’s what you tell yourself when your best friend will never walk again.]

my 7-year old dad [bobby] with harv when he was roughly 3-years-old [~1964]

my understanding is that harv left my birthday party around 5 o’clock and stopped to get a sandwich [this detail sounds innocuous but i was told it actually saved his life upon impact.]

harv was on a motorcycle, his transportation of choice, and he didn’t have on a helmet as i suspect few did those days.

he pulled up to a four-way stop intersection on the east side of downtown green bay. [an intersection i can’t recall although i’ve likely driven through hundreds of times – probably as recently as my last trip to wisconsin. it's funny what our minds retain.] while stopped in that brief moment, a drunk driver in a cadillac crossed the empty intersection and barreled into the opposite lane — striking my uncle harvey with enough force to send in through the air landing somewhere between 50-100 feet away — on his tailbone.

let’s revisit some of the details:

  • it’s around 5 o’clock
  • in broad daylight
  • on an empty city street
  • in a small town
  • at a four-way intersection
  • needless to say, the woman didn’t stop
  • the woman was speeding
  • the woman walked away

my uncle did not.
he never walked again.

[turns and asks alexa ... “what day of the week was june 13, 1987?”]

it was a saturday.

wtf. maybe i'm not so (un)lucky afterall?

if you asked harv about literally anything other than that fateful day, his face would light up with stories and smiles. he never acted (un)lucky or sorry for himself and i’m determined to start living the same way.

here's some pics before you go ...

harv and bobby (would ya look at that flowery couch?!) [~1952]
the haugen's before jimbo joined the crew [~1967]
the four brothers + me in my dad's lap and mands on harv [1985]

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