October 23, 2013 by Marj Hatzell
The Guy I Live With and I have an understanding. We don’t do big birthday celebrations. I’m not comfortable with being the center of attention (Hard to believe, no?) and he isn’t either. So we keep it low key. Since our birthdays and our anniversary are all within ten days of each other we typically celebrate once on our annual Sleep-And-Eat Weekend and are done with it. Which we are managing this weekend, despite the fact that we thought we weren’t going to be able to squeeze it in this year. It will be an abbreviated version but better than nothing, right?
The past two weeks I’ve been…sad. I could be because October is also known as IEP Hell month. It could be hormones. It could be sheer exhaustion. But this weekend it finally dawned on me why I was just…sad.
This weekend is my first birthday without either parent. You know, the people who brought me into this world?
Two years ago on my birthday, my brother arranged a birthday lunch at our favorite lunch hang out. My parents, nephew and Sister-in-law were there. My Dad was in the middle of cancer treatments but he and I ordered the same sandwich and he sang (very off key) to wish me a happy birthday. It felt so good that they were there to celebrate with me. Two months later he was dead and the restaurant burned to the ground, never to return. I’m still grateful for that day, the last birthday I was able to share with him.
Last year on my birthday I had lunch with my mother. She smiled as she told me about when I was a baby, what a difficult toddler I was, and how they were praying hard they’d survive me in the throes of puberty. Basically, I cried for eight years. That sure was fun.
Every year she (and my father) would call and wish me a happy birthday. My Dad (very loudly. See a pattern?) would call me by my full name and nick names and go on and on and on and then end it with a (very loudly and off key) song. My mother would grab the phone from him and gush about what an adorable baby I was and how much they loved me.
And now they are dead and buried.
You know, the whole parents-sick-kids-taking-care-of-them stinks. My parents were relatively young at 72 and 69 when they passed. When they finally succumbed to their terrible illnesses it was a relief. The whole process is seriously mentally draining. On one hand, I miss them terribly and I’m very sad they are no longer here. I hate what their illnesses did to them. On the other hand, dealing with the aftermath of their death, like cleaning out their home, dealing with the financial crap and will (my poor brother is executor. I don’t envy him!) is awful. We’re relieved their suffering has ceased but feel guilty because we’re grateful to have our regular lives back without the burden of multiple appointments, hospitalizations, grocery runs, picking up medication, and taking care of their animals.
And then I wonder why I’m sad.
I know it’s all part of growing up. I know I’m supposed to get on with my life. But there isn’t a day that goes by that I wish I had saved the ninety-billion messages my mother left me each day. She’d call several times, especially after my father passed, because she’d either forget she called me or forget how to do something like cook chicken. There isn’t a day that goes by that I smiled when I think of my Dad dropping off the Philadelphia staple, soft pretzels, despite the fact that I had to hide them from Bugaboo and his wheat allergy. Not a day goes without me wishing I could still roll my eyes at the absolute crap grandparents reserve the right to get for the grandchildren. The cards in the mail, the blurry pictures, the holy water (for Bugaboo to bless the house with, I suppose!), the weekly visits for soup and grilled cheese, their yappy dog, the loud and booming voice – all of it. If only I had it again.
You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.