Make A Wish

My husband’s birthday is in a few weeks. I’m not yet sure if I’ll acknowledge it in any way. The first year after he died I spent weeks, if not months, strategizing how I’d observe the day. I remember a well-meaning person telling me; “planning is a good coping mechanism”. But it wasn’t about that. Planning birthday celebration has always been important to me and at least half the fun. I grew up in a house where birthdays were a big deal, he did not. I loved planning small surprises and meaningful celebrations and presents for him. The last few years of his life I had designed the perfect decadent birthday breakfast. Watching his delight at I placed the “challah french toast nutella and jam sandwich with homemade syrup” I would grow giddy. So planning how I’d honor his first birthday after his death was more of not being in any hurry to relinquish that particular joy. Which is why just four months after his sudden death, I dressed up and took myself to the Bemelman Bar for a drink. I sat in a corner sipping a glass of champagne, a jumble of anxiety and sadness. Within earshot was a young woman celebrating her 21st birthday with her parents. I did not burden herĀ  with “OMG it’s my late husband’s birthday too!” but took delight in the observation nonetheless.

Since that surreal first year, I’ve made less of an event of his birthday. I do remember cringing one year as I realized I was consummating a new relationship on my husband’s birthday. (By the time I realized the supreme tackiness of it, it really was too late.) I like to think I evened the cosmic score by making him a birthday cake last year (but who am I kidding; I was the one who ate the cake!). I suspect that this year on his birthday I’ll be at the dentist getting my new crown. It’s kind of funny considering how dental work played a minor recurring role in our relationship. When it became apparent we’d be getting married, I sat my future husband down and said; “I need to tell you something; you are signing on to HUGE dental bills for the rest of your life.” One of the first presents he ever gave me was while I was recovering from oral surgery. Perhaps as the hygienist straps on the nitrous (yes I get nitrous for every single procedure, did you not read that part about the dental bills?!) I will think; “This one’s for you, husband!”

If I’m not nursing a nitrous hangover, I suspect at the very least I’ll pour a drink and toast to him. So much has changed in the past five years. The first and the fifth year have been life altering. Truly. I do not recognize my life from two years ago any more than I do the life six years ago. My husband is part of my life now in a way he never was. I talk to him and think of him constantly. It’s not a Vaseline on the lens kind of view of him. I think of him the way he really was. I cannot conjure what he’d think or say about all things, but it’s surprising how many I can. There are many areas of my life in which I feel confident and am my best counsel. But there are some that make my knees buckle, and I ask myself WWHD (what would husband do). I freely admit to narrating some of life’s most joyous moments to him as if I’m watching a play seated next to a visually impaired friend. He’s a genuine part of my life now. Like an imaginary friend. I did not see it coming (like his death) and never dared to wish it, but am delighted beyond measure. This is the sixth birthday since he’s died, but the first that I’ll truly feel he’s with me.












Happy Birthday To You

Today is my husband’s birthday. It’s the fourth since he’s died and the first that I’m “celebrating”. I made a cake. The same cake I’ve made dozens of times and the one he made for me the week he died. It is fail-proof and ridiculously simple and yet it sits on my counter, sunken, misshapen and tilting precariously. I think where I screwed up was in my self-consciousness. I was acutely aware that I was making a cake for my dead husband and wondering how crazy that really was. I thought all this while crying and stirring. The crying didn’t prevent me from eating the disaster, mind you.

There’s a major snowstorm today in the northeast and it’s not the first time that has happened on his birthday. I’m reminded of a time we had to abandon the car on a hill and hitchhike home after seeing a band in a dive bar. We found some vegan restaurant workers with a van that reeked of bong water and found our way home through darkened country roads to our snow covered home and 9-month-old Bichon. We moved to the city years ago and I know exactly how we’d be spending this birthday. I would be making his annual “peanut butter & jelly” breakfast (challah french toast, layered with nutella and warm preserves, topped with berries and maple syrup) and we’d spend the day seeing Harry Potter on Broadway. He would’ve loved it. I would take him to an old school restaurant for dinner (we had been making our way through all the classics; 21, Four Seasons, etc.) and fall into bed.

This is the first year I have indulged in any birthday celebration or fantasy. Part of me resents this experience. It’s bad enough I have to get through every other holiday and milestone; NOW THIS?! But I also am reveling in this private time between me and my memories. I miss him so much. My life is different now, as am I. I don’t think I’m living in the past. But oh what I would give for one day back in time. I’d even go back to that disgusting van filled with stoners if it meant sitting by his side. Together we were so much better than we ever were apart.

I can’t go back. Life is not a movie. But I can spend today thinking of him and remembering what it felt like to have everything I’d ever wanted and needed. Happy Birthday, Husband.