My 40th birthday is just a few days away. More than anything as of late I dread that day. It represents a line in the sand I’m crossing, a demarcation of maturity and yet all the underpinnings that make that day (and the rest of my life) exciting have come unpinned. Now, instead of a celebration of What Was and What’s To Come, that dreadful day is instead a reminder of What’s Gone and What I’ll Never Have.
My friends have been fretting about what to do for me that day. They’ve talked about how that day is important, much like Maggie’s Birthday in December was important and, thus, for the same reasons we should celebrate. All my reticence has, to them, been merely a gesture of humility. “Ah, he’s just being silly,” they’ve said. But what they don’t understand, and what I’ve been terrible at explaining, is that I can’t possibly celebrate. It’s just unfathomable for me to see how I have anything to celebrate about.
Legend has it that Valentine’s Day was the day I proposed to Maggie. While I remember the occasion very clearly, I could not for the life of me tell you that, in fact, it was Valentine’s Day. When you lose your spouse, with them you lose half of your memories. Lost are the details of that day beyond which my mind can recall, like the actual date. Heck, I’m not even clear on what YEAR it happened. Funny enough, Maggie and I actually talked about this exact topic on our next-to-the-last supper we had together dining out. When was it? Neither of us was really sure. It was, for certain, in early February because it happened the day of the next-to-the-last freeze which, as Austinites, we know happens in early February.* That’s for sure. Regardless, who am I to argue with a romantic legend.
* The second late freeze and accompanying rare snowfall happened a few days later and is the snow that was captured in the photo of The Chair many of you have seen that commemorates that special occasion. Now, really, how many times does it snow TWICE in one year in Austin? Not very many. Maybe this is something that could be backed into via some historical weather information. However, I’ll not be bothering with it.
One fact is for certain. February 28th will be our 6th wedding anniversary. It’s funny. Back in Waco, the evening of our 3rd anniversary as I tucked a post-chemo Maggie into bed, she burst into tears, which, as you know, is very unlike her. After sitting quietly, caressing her hand and cheek, stroking her hair and brushing away her tears, I asked what was wrong. She, through more tears, told me how sad she was that I was going to be celebrating our 8th wedding anniversary alone. Well, I don’t get to chide her about being wrong very often but HA! She missed the 6th and 7th. Ha!
Here’s a guess at what we should have been doing for my 40th birthday:
- Celebrating our first child’s 2rd birthday (born around when I graduated from school)
- Celebrating Maggie’s success as a lawyer, with her own successful partnership (with her dear friend Florencia)
- Looking forward to our next child (we were planning on adopting)
- Watching my high tech company grow (as President and founder)
So, instead, here’s what I get to do this month:
- Go to court to argue that I was the only husband Maggie ever had (it’s the rules for when someone dies without a will) (Feb 18th)
- Celebrate the anniversary of one of the most special and intimate days we ever had – the day we got engaged (Feb 14th?)
- Celebrate the anniversary of one of the most special and public days we ever had -the day we got married (Feb 28th)
- Celebrate my 40th birthday (Feb 14th)
- Continue to delve into my sudden-onset and mysterious heath issues by getting an MRA* (Feb 4th)
- Re-enter the workplace as a contractor-for-hire
* Magnetic Resonance Angiogram – similar to an MRI but specifically for examining blood vessels.
For many, many years I’ve looked forward to growing old with my sweetie. Hanging out together, learning to be parents, following our careers, celebrating our many successes and just in general having fun all sounded great because I loved her company. Yet all that is gone now. Instead, I get to start over at the age of 40 damn near from the beginning. Start over! Think about that! And that’s just something that’s nearly impossible to celebrate. So, so, so much has been lost. Our work to build a bright future, lost. So what’s there to celebrate on this one day? Nothing. The effort to even pretend would be overwhelming.
I’ve said before and I’ll say it again – I’m the luckiest guy in the world. I have a better group of friends than a person could ever even dream about. I appreciate all the efforts to plan something special for my birthday. Thank you so, so much! I am touched deeply. But grant me this one wish for my birthday. Let me take a rain check on our celebrations. Can we take all the joy and happiness that you (and, truthfully, I) want to build into that day and let it explode another day in the future?