Now What?

A year ago . . . almost exactly . . . I made a decision to leave town.  Not permanently, certainly, but temporarily.  My birthday is a strange event for me.  There are several events, in fact, in my family’s life that have dual celebrations, dual meanings, and a strange dichotomy to the feelings I get with them.

I share my birthday with my middle child, Hannah.  It’s interesting because the uninitiated might think I find this troublesome.  I might, you might say, wish that it was my day, not shared with someone else.  That would be far from reality, though.  I loved the fact that my daughter was born on my birthday.  For much of her early life, by the way, it was one of the few things that she would relate to me and actually break down and act like, well, like the other kids when it comes to her Dad.  It’s not that we didn’t get along or argued or didn’t like each other.  Hannah is amazing.  She’s bright, she’s artistic, she plays guitar, just an amazing kid.

When she was born, though, she was to me what Abbi was to Andrea.  She was the kid who cuddled her Mom.  She fought me, argued, cried, screamed and thought I was this horrible, angry person.  When I would sit next to Andrea and hold her hand or she’d put her head on my shoulder, Hannah would see that, walk up, and immediately insert herself between us.  Her view of the world was just a bit askew from everyone else’s.  While I think, at age 1-9, she thought I was angry about that I actually admired it.  She was more like me than she realized and I believe that’s what frustrated her so much.

But after she lost her Mom that all changed.  She’s like her brother Sam in that she wants to make sure we’re all safe and she likes to sit next to me, put her head on my shoulder, hug me, all of it.  I don’t dislike this, I love it, but I also have three others that are trying to do the exact . . . same . . . thing.

But last year was really hard.  I had lost Andrea, my home, my job . . . all of that.  I had a new home, a new job, and the kids were in Nebraska because I had no time off.  I managed to set up the house those initial days and there wasn’t much more to do so I headed out to drive the Pacific Coast Highway and end up in Los Angeles.  I needed to leave and I mean leave for a good long while.  I wasn’t able to, though, so a weekend was all I could really manage.  The drive took a long time, which I wanted, and the trip was a whirlwind.

An image from my PCH trip

Now I’m a year later.  I have vacation time, but cannot take it.  It’s ratings; my news director has left for bigger things; and programming, etc, make for a difficult situation for myself and the station if I want to take time off.  So instead, I’m home, again, on my birthday.

This isn’t a “woe is me, it’s my birthday” message.  I actually am more upset I cannot be with Hannah, my birthday buddy.    I’ve sent her gifts, talked via video phone, all of that.  But it’s nice to share it and see someone happy to be there on your birthday.

Andrea treated me really well in the early days of our relationship, on ever birthday.  She made a cake our first year together – something she said over and over was not easy or fun for her.  She bought me clothes to make me look better, threw parties, all of that.  But when we had Abbi . . . and then Hannah . . .  and she began to think I messed up her birthday too many times my birthday started to falter.  I didn’t mind, I had never, really, thought of my birthday as too amazing a day.  But where I failed but tried every year for her, by the time I’d hit 30 she’d given up trying.  Hannah’s day was bigger, harder, and more stressing.  When friends of mine decided to throw me a party for my 30th and Andrea hadn’t thought about it the day turned into one of the worst of our marriage.  It wasn’t because I started the fight, it was, I know now years later, that she hadn’t thought of it herself and she felt about an inch tall.

I was selfish that day and just added to it.  The night ended with her crying and telling me she just wanted to have the night with me . . . alone.  It was my turn to be 2 inches tall.  The only good thing to come of it was my brother, friends and I using my maddened tirade of “because it’s my fucking birthday!” as a staple for whenever we are angry about something.

From that point on I just didn’t feel like my birthday was a great day, not really one worth celebrating.  It will be 12 years since that day this year and I ache knowing how I see every second of that day seared into my brain.  I remember every vowel and consonant of our conversations and I still cringe remembering Andrea’s tirade, followed by mine, in front of my brother and two of my very good friends.  I look at it, still, as one of the lowest points of my life until last year.

But that same day one of those very people in the room slapped me back into reality.  It’s where the line came from: “she just wants you to follow her.  She left, but she wants you to go get her.”
“I get that,” was my line, “and any other day I’d understand.”
“Why don’t you get that today?”
“…because it’s my fucking birthday!”

That same friend told me that if this was a crossroads I had to make the choice now.  I had 2 kids.  I had a life.  I had to choose to change all that or dive back in, headfirst, and be her husband.  Birthday didn’t matter.  Life doesn’t look at the day.

It still took me some time, but obviously things changed.  At the end of the day, it was the same as when I asked Andrea to marry me – I couldn’t see living my life without her in it.  As bad as some days were, there were far more good ones.

So last year . . . and now this . . . I look at the fact that I now have to live without her.  Not only that, but this first shared day – my birthday – is a good thing.  The other – my anniversary – I cannot come to terms with still.  It’s a hard thing knowing your marriage began and ended on the very same day.

But it’s amazing knowing you gained an amazing part of your family on your birthday.  That’s always been the best gift of all.  So this year . . . I don’t know where I’ll be yet . . . but I can’t be here.  I have to make good memories when my kids aren’t around so that I don’t dwell on the bad ones.

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One thought on “Now What?”

  1. This makes me think about kids at their overblown birthday parties. It’s all about FUN and how it’s going to be A BLAST, and then, halfway through the scavenger hunt or cake, the birthday kid had a total meltdown. Anything can set it off. It happens because we wrap so many expectations about FUN into the day. About it being some grand traffic-stopping holiday. It’s too much. We need to ease up on ourselves. These are milestones and should be honored, perhaps as sacred, perhaps as just the simple gifts the days are. There are so many ways to celebrate with attention and generosity. I am so, so happy to know you are thinking about how to mark your birthday for yourself, even if it can only be something small. The day you were born is a very good day, indeed. Treat yourself as the gentle earth would like you to treat her.

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