Thirty two years ago at 0914 my mother in law brought my husband into this world.
As a child, my father did not believe in celebrating birthdays. As an adult, I fucking LOVE birthdays. Paul and I always celebrated. And what better way to celebrate than to drink yourself back to toddler-hood. You know what I mean?
“Tell me more about him…tell me about your first celebrated birthdays”
This was the question my sweet, well-intentioned girlfriend asked me. It is one of the reasons that she stole my heart. She does not just tolerate Paul’s memory and love, she actively shares in it.
Last night was a bad night. On the eve of his birthday, I was wrapped in emotions. I was lonely. I was mad. I was devastated. And when I read that text, I thought “Oh man. That’s a great question.” And I couldn’t think of anything in particular. Only snipets. The birthdays ran across my mind, not in sequence but a jumble of snapshots of birthdays memories over the years. And the harder I tried to pin it down, the harder I tried to sort it out–the more difficult a time I had remembering. The tears welled up and I started to cry. I brought up my Facebook and realized how much I post. I scolded myself. “Why the hell do you post so much? It is going to take forever.” I was trying to scroll through the years to find each birthday. And I cried. I reached out to my friends. Trying to find some type of outlet because the hurt would not subside.
And just when I thought I’d reached the peak…I saw the last picture of my used-to-be best friend, on the last birthday that she celebrated with him. It was 2013. I was out of nursing school. She was the thinnest I’d ever seen her and I had packed on some serious poundage over the last couple years. Paul was so excited to have us together. He looked sharp in his new purple button up.
We always pre-gamed to save money at the bar. I don’t remember who bought the Tennessee Honey Whiskey but we took it as a personal challenge to drink the whole bottle. She got sick at the bar, I held her hair back, she threw up on my dress and hers.
My heart literally ached as I thought about this night. As I thought about the following year which was his last birthday…his 30th. She didn’t make it to that birthday. She had come to every prior birthday. Even the first one in 2010, when we had a surprise party at Don Quixote where I’d gathered enough ‘donations’ to give him cash to put a CD player in his truck.
I couldn’t help myself as I typed in her number. I don’t have her number saved as if it will be less tempting to message her but I try. I sent her the photo with my word vomit. She did actually respond. And I cried some more. She told me “I’ve always cared about you and always will”. It was like relief and a knife to the heart all at once. I can’t really explain it. She (or rather the memory of what our friendship and life used to be) is a comfort to me. She is a connection to Paul. And sometimes, I like long for that hard core–as some sort of comfort.
I frantically kept trying to piece together the birthdays since I couldn’t remember. I finally did it. The frenzy in my soul calmed and my tears ceased. My eyes hurt. They are swollen. My head aches.
Love. Death. Grief. It is a kick to the gut, man. And you just never know when it will hit you hardest. My buddy gave me the best advice, like usual, last night. She told me to not “fight the sad and to let it pass through” me. I took a deep breath in and out. Actually, I’m doing that right now. It will pass.
Today is my beloved husband’s would have been 32nd birthday. I’ve been up most of the night. I’m off work and plan to keep busy. I have lots to do today.
Remembering Paul is my biggest comfort in the world. And it has just become my necessity. I live and celebrate my life in his honor. I feel compelled to do so. To do any less would be a disservice.
Last year and this year I threw birthday parties for him. My mom asked me last week why I am still having a birthday party when he isn’t here. That really threw me off but my answer “because I feel that I need to”. And that’s the truth. Maybe I won’t always do this but for right now I want to. I like celebrating him even in his absence. I love getting together with our friends. It makes my heart happy to spend some time with those who were touched by him.
Yesterday I had a phone interview with a journalist in the UK for a couple upcoming interviews for two magazine offers I have received. They want to publish a story about my weight loss journey and Paul. The journalist has a British accent which made me giggle and was a bit distracting at first. But once I settled into the conversation, it was great. She asked some of the same questions that the previous journalist did but then she asked some different ones. She asked about how we met and about his health history. They have kinda titled what I call my accomplishments as my bucket list. I find it a little funny. I guess it is a sort of bucket list but I make this list yearly.
I got to reflect on some very good memories that Paul and I shared. And I reflected again on how much my life has changed. How much I have changed. How much I have experienced because of him. I’m fortunate in that way. To have had a love that inspires me. That motivates me. That has had the ability to help me push on when I all I wanted to do was fall.
I hope you all take away a positive from this. My message is usually the same. But I still want to repeat it. Live out loud, guys. Seize your day. Don’t put off for tomorrow.
To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all. -Oscar Wilde