What If I Don't Have A Birthday?

April 27, 2006

One of the things that Michele was particularly good at, and that she got me doing, was talking about uncomfortable situations in advance so as to lessen the impact when they happened for real. Knowing that you are going into a difficult situation is one thing, but talking about it before hand, in a safe, controlled place, allows you to dump your fears, or anger, or other powerful emotion outside of a situation where expressing yourself fully might be ill-advised or difficult.

In just over a week the 45th anniversary of my birth will occur and I am full of mixed emotions regarding it this year. Throughout my childhood my birthdays were generally good ones. I had a roller skating party in the fourth grade (even my parents skated!), and took my best friend sailing one year. As I got older it seemed that less importance was placed on birthdays. By the time I was in my early twenties my birthday was often just another day. Michele put an end to all of that; she felt very strongly that birthdays were meant to be special. In the short time we had together she always had special gifts for me, and sent goodie baskets to my office so I could share with my co-workers, she even managed to have a surprise party for me at my favorite restaurant one year. Through her I learned to appreciate the idea of a day just for me.

This May my day will be difficult. Michele won't be here to give me a special gift, or smile at me in that magical way she had. Adding to the stress level will be silent footfalls of death approaching to take my mother away. At present it seems she is strong enough to make it well into May, but the specter of her dying soon will color the occasion. After spending Thanksgiving with friends I learned that at least this first year I wanted to celebrate special days in my own way, usually by myself. I stayed away from Illinois on Christmas, having spent the weekend prior there with my parents. I want to stay away for my birthday as well, but I can't not go as one of these visits will be the last ever with mom.

It may sound selfish to want to be alone on my birthday, but I know in my heart that nothing is going to make me feel good about not having Michele here to celebrate with me. Having to spend time with others, even family, is only going to make her absence more apparent. That a lot of focus will go to my mom (perhaps rightly so) will be difficult to swallow. I am honest enough with myself to know that I will be jealous of her getting attention on my day. So I am writing about it here as I don't want to take that hurt with me and taint one of my last moments with her.

My plan is to pick a day, perhaps in a week or so, and go to our favorite restaurant, the one Michele loved more than any other, and let myself have a special dinner. And I'll buy myself something that I want but wouldn't ordinarily let myself have, as that is the kind of present Michele would get me. And I'll let my mom give me one more hug, and one more "I love you" for the actual day.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.