What you do for your grandchildren, do for your grandchildren…including teaching them to say “please” and “thank you” and to anticipate and remember important birthdays, including those of their parents. They will remember, and appreciate. If they know that grandparents teach what parents forget to pass on, the chances are that this education will go down through more generations than just the one.
As for your son, don’t loan him more money when he hasn’t either repaid or offered to make some amends for what he has already borrowed. Unless your grandchildren will literally be going without food or shelter…no exceptions.
Also, there needs to be a talk about this business of hanging up on somebody when you don’t like how the conversation is going. That is not tolerable. (Incidentally, it is OK if he tried and tried to re-schedule the chat, and you would have none of that, and he finally said, “Mom, I’m really sorry, this is a really bad time and I’ve GOT to go!” and finally ended the call: THAT is not hanging up on you. That is refusing to be held hostage by a phone connection. There is a difference.)
There are otherwise thoughtful some people in this world who don’t remember birthdays without being reminded. Usually they are either space cadets who practically forget their own birthdays, or else over-scheduled and overwhelmed souls who find the first of each month coming as something of a shock.
If your son is in either group, tell him that it hurts you to have your birthday forgotten. Then tell him you want to make a date for the two of you to go out together every other month, alone. Breakfast, dinner, or lunch, whatever. You are not going to live forever, and you’ve both earned some time to relax together. Every time you meet, you schedule the next time out. If he does not have a schedule book, then call him a week in advance to remind him. Always call him with a reminder a day in advance. If he doesn’t like the reminders, then make a deal: I won’t call, but if you forget once in the next year, you’re going to take me on a three-day vacation within the next six months after that. I’m wagering that he’ll let you remind him after that.
Who pays is up to the two of you, but this is how you get quality time with an overscheduled person: you insist on being put on their schedule…and when you get there, you make them glad that you are. Concentrate on making these outings pleasant. You are not going to live forever. Choose to have the kind of times with him that you’d wish you’d made them when you’re on your deathbed. This is time to enjoy each other, not to improve or admonish each other. (Yes, enjoyable time with your mom. Happy adults do this.)
One meal out every two months is not too much to ask, particularly considering the amount of time and worry that you save him. Do not ever let him get away with breaking this date without scheduling a new date ON THE SPOT. Trust me, this is a person who does not know where the time goes. Be gentle, but be firm.
When the month comes that is closest to your birthday and you are choosing a dinner spot, say, “Oh, c’mon it is my birthday. You can do better than that. How about _____?”
Would I like it if he learned to look down the road on his own and bought you a card? Sure I would. Well, your best chance is to be on his schedule. Who knows? Maybe next year, when he picks you up for your birthday dinner, he might even have a card. Either way, maybe you do the work, but you’ll both be very glad that you did.