I can only assume you haven’t called me back yet because you’ve yet to listen to the numerous voicemails I’ve left you. Regardless, it’s time to cut to the chase: in a mere two weeks, Mom is going to be turning 60. Do you understand the severity of this situation? This better be the best fucking day of our mother’s life.

I don’t need to be the first to remind you about the “Flower Pot Fiasco” of 2004, the “Macaroni Art Disaster” of 1996, or, worst of all, the “I Thought It Wasn’t Until Next Month” flop of 2017. Those were all absolute shitshows. Except for the surprise party, of course, but that’s only because Mom planned it for herself.

The time has come for you to take a goddamn knee and listen up, buddy. We need a game-plan, and, boy-oh-boy does it need to be good. So, grab a fucking pen and take notes:

In exactly 14 days, the clock will strike midnight and our mother, Judy, will enter a new decade of her life. All eyes will be watching us, you and me, the fruits of her womb, the embodiments of her years of parenting, to see how we ring in this momentous occasion. And, frankly, when Judgement Day comes, I’m not going to be the one holding a $25 Amazon gift card like some kind of barbaric, mother-hating, monster.

For the past 11 months and 12 days, I’ve been racking my brain for ideas to make this particular birthday so exceptional, so meticulously perfect, so breathtakingly orchestrated, that Mom is rendered physically speechless. Do you understand me? I want tears. I want hugs. I want a goddamn standing ovation. And where have you been while I’ve been doing all of this? That’s right, in Newark with Paula.

Today, that ends.

If you open up your email, you’ll find an Excel spreadsheet organizing my thoughts, concerns, and diligent planning. What size is Mom at Chico’s? A six. What kind of flower does she like best? That’s a trick question: irises if they’re cut, and roses if they’re potted. Who is she currently fighting with? Barbara from up the street. I know that because I tapped her phone.

This isn’t a drill. Welcome to the big leagues, brother. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m unwilling to be left in the dust alone while you fiddle with a ceramic teapot from Kohl’s. That’s right, I know you already bought and wrapped a teapot for her. How’d I find that out? I broke into your house while you and Paula were at couple’s spin class, tore apart the front closet, and found a CVS gift bag with that monstrosity inside of it. Polka dots? Are you kidding me? You’re out of your goddamn mind.

Last night, I did a test run of how the day is going to play out. I sent Mom and Dad out on a fool’s errand, convincing them that you had been rushed to the hospital with appendicitis and needed a kidney transplant from both of them immediately, and, as soon as they ran out the door, sobbing, I got to work: I camped out in the bushes with rose petals, three newborn kittens, and a cake made out of a giant chocolate chip cookie. By the time they came home, I had everything hidden and the lights turned off. Dad walked in first, and, thinking I was an intruder, hit me in the head with a softball bat. Needless to say, it left a pretty nasty bump on the old noggin. Before he could see that it was me, I ran up to the attic which is where I’ve been hiding for more than 15 hours in a box of Grandma’s old Beanie Babies. It’s possible that I’m allergic to something up here because I’m covered in a highly itchy rash, and, without trying to get graphic, it’s everywhere. I’m talking about a severe allergic reaction in every nook and cranny. Butt-crack-region included.

I need us to play for the same team, here, amigo. And that team, as I’m sure you’ve already guessed, is team Judy. I’m talking breakfast in bed, foot massages, cashmere sweaters, even the entire fucking San Diego petting zoo if it’ll make her happy.

And, on your way to pick all of that up, for the love of God please stop and get me some Cortisone cream.