It’s your birthday today, the first one that you won’t be celebrating with the rest of us. Its funny how, as a child, I never considered the possibility that parents have birthdays too. I selfishly assumed that being born and being celebrated for one’s birth is a privilege accorded only to children. Parents were too old and worldly wise to need, or even to appreciate, such trivial things as birthdays. But today I feel the need to wish you a happy birthday, to celebrate your life, your love, all that you gave to me that I cannot even begin to understand. Its crazy how most of the time I don’t even realize how much I miss you. But sometimes that part of my mind that stays quiet most of the time catches up with me to remind me of the things that are important and the people who matter. The last two nights I dreamed of you, not as you were for the last two years, but as you used to be when I was a child. You always did have an unbelievable amount of energy and life in you, and such incredible bluster that the rest of the world never got to know how fearful you always were, of just about everything. It was only as I grew older that I saw your vulnerability and appreciated your grace. You taught me integrity, the importance of detail, the meaning of multitasking long before it became jargon, how to cook, how to love new clothes, how to be obsessive about cleanliness. You also passed on to me a complete disregard about what other people thought. It was quite an experience being your child, you know.
Then you became my child. I hated it, completely. I wasn’t prepared, and I didn’t have the capability to slip into the new role gracefully. I protested, rather ungratefully, and I know it hurt you. Kids are selfish, you know? They aren’t really programmed to think about anything apart from themselves. Sometimes I wonder how things would’ve been if I’d been a little older, a lot wiser.
Anyway, some time has passed, and the recriminations inside my head have mostly stopped. I think I’ve realized that thinking that I could’ve changed everything had I done something differently is being too presumptuous about my role in the larger scheme of things, that life and death are so much bigger than you and I and what we do or fail to do. When you were around I hardly told you how much I love you, but now I’ve gained perspective enough to say it. Last night in my dream you told me that you miss me too. I honestly hope that you meant it, I think I’m quite miss-able, don’t you think? Don’t worry about us, you’ve trained us well. We’ll manage to survive, and then some. You’ll see. I hope there is cake wherever you are, and lots of it. And now, something I think I want to dedicate to you. Its been preying on my mind these last couple of weeks, and till just now I didn’t realize why. It’s for you.
See the stone set in your eyes,
See the thorn twist in your side,
I wait for you.
Sleight of hand and twist of fate,
On a bed of nails she makes me wait,
And I wait without you.
With or without you.
Through the storm we reach the shore,
You give it all but I want more,
And I’m waiting for you.
With or without you.
I can’t live, with or without you.
And you give yourself away,
And you give, and you give,
And you give yourself away….
Happy 50th birthday, Ma.