A friend of mine referred to your 49th birthday as “47 Plus 2.” It’s an interesting vantage point in which to view each February 3rd, all the February 3rds that you will never share with me. And I, with you. This is your second birthday absent from this life, and I can’t help but think of all the ways we would have celebrated the last one, this one, and certainly the next one.
For this one, you probably would have gone to the Super Bowl. Just sucked it up…all the cost and hassle…and gone. Even to a place like Minnesota in February. Maybe your friend Tom, who lives there, would’ve joined you for the game. Maybe you would have wanted me to go with you. Maybe Sean. But regardless, I bet that this one would have been the one where you decided that you’d at last earned the right to go. And Tom Brady is 40 so you had better just do it before the sky, at long last, falls down on him…like it eventually does to everyone.
The next one? Well, that’s easy. I bet we would’ve planned a trip. Maybe an extended family affair on a cruise ship, even if just for a few days. We’d go some place warm, probably the Caribbean, so everyone could mostly afford it and enjoy themselves. If someone couldn’t afford it,
you would have offered to pay the way. You would have wanted to be around your family for your 50th, I have no doubt. You would have wanted to share the fruits of your hard work with all of them. And we would have had a great time.
It’s quiet today at Topsail Beach in North Carolina. The girls and I are here to get away from the relentless sadness of your absence and the constant rat race of our three respective lives to watch the perfect sunrises on this beach – sunrises that you will never see – and toast a Jack and Ginger toward St. Croix – where the beach bar is sitting, the one we will never buy together. We will eat a piece of strawberry cake, your favorite. Abby baked one and then messed up the “Happy Birthday Dad” because the icing tip broke. So it just says, “Happy.” Does that not describe the absolute joke of this all? The joke on us? “Happy?”
You’d be proud of our girls and how strong they have been, how they are both carrying on with their young lives on their own paths. Abby will move out on her own soon, is working full time in a major hospital, and is stillin school, doing school on her own dime and with her own pace. She might even get engaged this year. Your dad wants the young man to call him before he asks her, though. He’s doing the things you would have wanted him to do for you. Pook is in her last semester at App and then headed to Africa with the Peace Corps after graduation. That will be better than a Master’s program or some entry level job in some company somewhere. She is living the kind of life that she believes in – and that is exactly what you would’ve wanted for her.
And me? Well, I write. I work to help the girls. I walk and feed the dogs. I run a lot of miles – up to 31 miles a week now. I hike. Sometimes alone and sometimes with a friend. I seek adventure. I seek adrenaline rushes. I seek something, anything, to feel alive. A touch of grace from the universe, a spark of hope from the kindness of another, a connection to peace and love and understanding and acceptance. I try to go out and build upon a few friendships, some new, some older. I applied to Grad School. I’ve been invited to compete for a spot in the SBI Academy. I read. I read a lot. I remember. I reminisce. I wrestle with demons. I keep trying to get up each day with a sense of possibilities. Some days, that doesn’t go so well. I have learned that I can care again. But its sparingly. I suppose that’s progress.
I’m still terribly angry. And the loneliness, the emptiness, the insecurities and anxiety. There’s still a long parade of pain to work through.
You don’t visit me much anymore, but one recent rough night, I begged for you to come by. To remind me of your promise that you’d always be with me. The next morning, Stretch sat staring at that blank space on the wall again. Just staring. Looked at me, looked at the wall. Looked at me, then sat staring at the wall.
So, thanks. I know you were just letting me know that you haven’t gone anywhere, like you promised that one time as we sat together on the coffee table in the living room, the last time you held my hand. But you know what? Much of the time, it feels like you have left me. So, you need to step it up. Because I deserve better than that. And I know you know that.
My fear is that I’m relegated to an emptiness and loneliness that I may never be able to extricate myself from. No matter what I want in life. No matter what you’d want for me. No matter where I go and what I do and who I meet. And God knows, I’ve tried. I really have. I suppose I need to keep trying until I either free myself, or die, which ever comes first. But I’ve also come to realize this dark and sad possibility…maybe there is a loneliness so deep that it simply cannot be filled with anyone or anything.
Holes – even big, deep, infinite, soul-sucking black ones – certainly have their purpose.
We miss you. I miss you. “Happy” (47 Plus 2).
Love you forever,