HBD, Old Man River.
Oh, Old Man River. Happy freaking birthday. Also: I've been saving this photo since October. Nailed it.
Right now, on the first day of your 49th year, you're at academic awards because it's graduation week, and I'm at Liv's softball game because there are approximately a million of them. (Clearly I'm paying a ton of attention. It's fine--these things last forever.)
I love you, River. That has to always be the first thing I tell you. Even when you're mansplaining how close is too close to follow another car when I'm driving, or Ras-splaining how to properly load dishwasher (according to Josh, this is an inherited family trait), and I'm considering punching you in the face, I love you. I think that's what sixteen birthdays together will do for a couple: show you how to laugh at all the day-to-day things that make you want to go postal, until they become fodder for the love letter you write ;)
In all seriousness, Jan, you are the reason our family works every day. You are the first to offer perspective, the first to show Olivia she can do it herself, or to talk her down when she's determined to have a moment. You're the first to tell me when my mom-anxiety is taking over, and the first to remind me I'm a human and allowed to enjoy myself. Never, ever have you been unsupportive, Jan. Any time I don't think I can do something, or I stress because I'm not doing enough, you remind me that A) approval from others should have no bearing on whether I attempt something or not, and B) I'm a human, not a robot; taking time to just be is important.
The more I recognize this trait in you each day, the more I hope Liv gets this from you. I hope she is able to see the world with the joy and acceptance that you do, that she sees the world as something to be experienced, not challenged or defeated. Like you. You enjoy life, Jan, and even when I'm driving home and you're skipping all of my favorite songs, you make me enjoy life, too. Thanks for that, babe--but skipping Taylor is a sacrilege and I will murder you if you do it again, mmkay?
Happiest birthday, Old Man River. Here's to another turn around the sun. I'm right there with you, always.