Happy Fake Birthday, Husband. You Are Still Dead.

Something that I really do not like is that each time my dead husband’s birthday rolls around, (and yes, I will always call him my dead husband, because that is what he is. He is dead. He is not “late” for anything. He is just no longer here) people all over the atmosphere say things such as:

“Happy Birthday, Don!”, or “Happy Birthday in Heaven!”, or “I bet he is having a party in Heaven!”

Yuck. Just yuck. First of all, it’s not a “HAPPY” birthday. He isn’t here with me anymore. So it isn’t happy for him, it isn’t happy for me, it isn’t happy for anyone who loves him. There is really nothing happy, to me anyway, about having to breathe through and crawl through a birthday for a person who is not alive. A birthday – the day celebrating their very life – yet they are not here to do that. For me, it still stings each and every time it comes around. It hurts. And I have tried handling his birthday in different ways. The first one without him, someone gave me the advice of: Just do everything you would normally do together on that day, but do it yourself. If you normally go out together, take yourself out. Buy him presents, get him a cake, and talk to him. He is with you. Okay, I thought. I will give this a shot. It sounded corny as hell to me at the time, but I tried it anyway because I was so desperate to have something not feel horribly awful for 10 minutes. So I went to the store, bought the traditional 3 cards for him – one from me, and one from each of our kitties – and wrote in them and signed them. I bought all his favorite candy, and I left everything on his favorite recliner chair. Then I got in my car and drove to the nearby restaurant we would often go to on the Hudson River with the beautiful city skyline view, and I ate dinner with my husband.

Except I wasn’t with my husband. I was alone. In a public restaurant. On my husband’s birthday. Now, I am an extremely independent person. I love going places alone. But there is a huge difference between going somewhere alone because you have the choice and you feel like it, and going someplace alone because today is your husband’s birthday, and he is dead. After my depressing as hell dinner alone, I went home that night, saw the card and gifts I had left on the table sitting on his chair, and just cried. Then I cried some more, and then a lot more after that. When I was finished with the crying, I began crying, and then some more crying. It is amazing just how many times you can keep having the realization in your heart, that your husband is really, actually, truly gone.

I live in a world of extreme reality. This I know about myself. I cannot “pretend” like my husband is still here with me, and just act accordingly as if he is in the room. That may work for some people, and it may comfort them, but it sure as hell doesn’t do anything for me, except make me cry endlessly looking at the sad cards written out to nobody, and having candy that I dont even like in my fridge, because it was his favorite. (Special Dark Bars. That is what he loved. He is literally the only person ever to exist who eats the Special Dark bars FIRST, in those bags of Hershey miniatures. I would eat the Krackel and Mr. Goodbar, because everyone knows those are the best ones, and that Special Dark Bars suck and are not good on any level. But he would eat the Special Dark bar, and boy, did he love those things.)

This is also why I cringe at the “he is having a party in Heaven!” type remarks. Again, if that comforts you, great. But it does absolutely nothing for me, except make me think to myself: He isn’t on some cloud partying it up and playing his guitar and eating dark chocolate cake. He is just gone. If anything, he is energy floating around in space somewhere, but I truly don’t believe he is happily enjoying his birthday, or that he is even aware of his birthday, as a spirit or soul or energy particle. I am not religious, and so any kind of general Heaven remark never comforts me on any level. I do believe and feel and hope that when people die, their energy lives on, because energy never dies. But again, that thought does little to comfort me either, because energy can’t sit here and laugh with me and open birthday gifts with me and age and grow older with me. So, a birthday really isn’t much of a birthday when the person is dead.

Add to all of this, the fact that my husband’s birthday is extremely unique and has much history behind it. Today, February 28th, is, to most of the world who knew him, my husband’s birthday. But in the world of extreme reality that I live in, my reality, the absolute truth – today is not my husband’s birthday at all. No, today is the day Don and I used to refer to as his “fake birthday.” You see, my husband had 2 birthdays. Sort of. He was the product of an affair, and at the time, his mother did not want his father to know that he had a son, because his father had a family of his own. Also, Don’s mother was batshit crazy. She was head nurse at a hospital, and she had access to birth records and files and things. So she somehow toyed around with Don’s birth certificate, and changed the date on it so that her pregnancy and his birth would not match up with the time of the affair. So, my husband’s actual birth date is November 6, but that is not what is written on all his paperwork or birth certificate. All of that says February 28th. And no, what I just described is not this week’s latest plot on General Hospital. Like I said, I live in reality. And this story is the absolute truth, and it is my husband’s life. Don and I always joked about how, because he was so awesome, he got to have two birthdays. He would say “I want two parties! And two cakes! And two presents!” Each year, on today’s date, we would celebrate his birthday with friends and family, because most of them did not know about his real date of birth. Then, in November, we would always do the real celebration privately. Just us. That was always a really special day in our world. The world where we existed alone, just the two of us.

So now, in my world of extreme reality and truth, I get to crawl through his birthday each year, not one – but TWO times. And this year, this year I get to realize two times, that this is the year my husband would have turned 50 years old. He died at 46, and in just 4 months, he would have been 47. And if he were here, this November, I would most likely be throwing him some huge party with our family and my parents and all our friends for his 50th birthday. Instead, I am finishing and publishing my book about us, and having a huge book-release party on November 6 in NYC. I wish like hell that I had him to celebrate life with, instead of a book – but that is not my reality. So I take my reality, and do the best I can with it. But it still isn’t him, and he still isn’t here, and he he never will be again. The weird thing about death is that it’s forever. It still floors me that my husband will be dead forever. It still feels like it can’t be true. But it is true. And it always will be.

So, if it makes you feel better or comforts you somehow to wish my husband a happy birthday today, or in November, or both – then go ahead and do that. If that works for you, that is what you should do. For me, I will be quietly reflecting on the reality of what this day is, and what it isn’t. And in between my crying sessions each time I realize all over again the forever-ness of his death, I will laugh. I will laugh because I know my husband, and I know what he would say to all the people wishing him a happy birthday. He would say with a laugh: “Happy Birthday? Seriously? What’s so happy about it? I’m dead. It figures I would be dead on my own birthday. Twice. I don’t get any cake when I’m dead. I can think of a lot better ways to spend my time than being dead and not eating yummy cake. This sucks.”

Misfit

Sometimes I feel like the Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer of the widowed.

Rudolph was an outcast, with his bright and shiny red nose that everyone made fun of, and he felt lonely and isolated, even amongst other reindeer. His best friend, Hermie, was also an outcast. He was an elf that dreamt of being a dentist. All the other elves made fun of him because he didn’t want to make toys for Santa. He and Rudolph sang a silly duet in that Christmas cartoon classic that asked the question: Why Am I Such a Misfit?

That is me. A misfit. The widowed community has taken me in and treated me so kindly and warmly – and I love my widowed family that I never wanted or asked for – I truly do. But sometimes, I just feel like I’m …. different. Like I don’t actually belong here. Like maybe there was some mistake in the books …

There are many reasons that I feel this way, many reasons I sense this overwhelming loneliness and isolation, or this feeling of not quite relating to other widowed people’s feelings or emotions on things. First off, I do not have children. We wanted them – someday. But we were married merely 4.5 years and in no financial position yet to have them – and then he randomly dropped dead for no reason, and , well – there goes that dream.

I know there are other widowed people without kids, but a lot of times it doesn’t feel that way. It often feels like I spend a good chunk of my time entering rooms (virtual or real) where groups of widowed parents are having some sort of conversation about their kids. Widowed people with kids, when they get together, talk about their kids. A lot. They talk about how 7 year old Johny is doing with the loss, or how 2 year old Sammy won’t ever know who her mother is, or how 18 year old Ellen is graduating high-school next week, and doesn’t have her daddy there with her. Of course widowed people with kids talk about their kids. I’m certainly not faulting them for this. I’m just tired of feeling like a third wheel with absolutely nothing to add to the conversation except for a well-timed: “I don’t have any kids”, which usually brings down the room to a lovely shade of awkward.

One time, a few months after my husband died, I decided to attend a Support Group out on Long Island. I was still living in New Jersey at the time, in our old apartment, and I had Don’s old, beat up car. So I had to drive over 90 minutes just to attend this meeting, but I was that desperate to talk to other people who understood this life. When I got there, everyone went around and talked about their story, and then the group leader, who has 2 children, brought up something about her kids. Before I knew it, everyone was having a conversation about their children, and how they are coping with the loss. They didn’t even notice I was in the room, honestly. We sat there for almost 2 hours, and they managed to not only discuss various kid-related topics, but also plan a future widowed-people “play date” at a nearby park so that all their kids could meet one another and enjoy the day. How lovely for them. But what about me? When I go home, I am truly, 100% alone. Just me and my thoughts. I really needed to talk that night, yet nobody in that room even saw me.

I walked out of that room feeling ten times worse than when I walked in, because now, I was faced with not only the loss of my husband, but the loss of our dreams of a family – the family I will never have. I’m 41, and I was widowed at 39. The odds aren’t looking too good on me ever being a mother, considering the facts that I’m still living on “Broke-ass Mountain”, and I have NO desire to date, yet no desire to raise a child by myself either. I’m doing my best to accept that those dreams are dead, but it’s not fun when it’s constantly being shoved in your face. It just seems like it is automatically “assumed” by the widowed community, thateveryone has children. I often hear other widowed people say things like: “Well, we must do it for our children”, or, my favorite: “If I didn’t have my children, I wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning.” Well, thanks for pushing that stake into my heart a little further, by reminding me once again that I have no real reason to keep existing, no child to take care of, no face to look into and see Don’s blue eyes and beautiful soul. .

As if not having kids doesn’t make me feel like enough of a misfit, there is also the whole God thing. I am not religious. At all. I wouldn’t go as far as to call myself an atheist, because I do believe there is some sort of higher power. I just don’t pretend to know what it is, and I certainly do NOT believe that “everything happens for a reason”, or that my husband’s death was part of “God’s Plan”, or that “trusting in the Lord” will get me through this nightmare. So, hearing these comments from the non-widowed is one thing, but to hear them from other widowed people who are very religious, is very hard. These comments are not only unhelpful to me, but I find them slightly offensive. Why do people assume everyone is religious? Why do people feed you cliches as if they are effective ways to respond to someone’s pain? And where on earth do people like me go to get some words of comfort that don’t include “God will carry you?” People should believe whatever it is that brings them comfort along this muddy road. I just sometimes feel like I’m all alone in not believing much of anything.

misfits together

I am not a good widow.  I curse. I make crazy and inappropriate jokes that sometimes offend others. I’m a comedian, which, in itself is weird and strange in this widowed world. I was not the type of person who dreamt of her wedding day as a little girl. No. I was and AM fiercely independant, and only dreamt of my wedding and my marriage after meeting the man I knew I’d spent my life with. But that life only ended up being four and a half years, and now I’m too old to be young, and too young to be old. Too tired to start over, too stubborn to give up.

Often times, I hear other widowed people talking about “finding themselves” after the loss of their partners. That’s something else I cannot relate to. I have always known exactly who I am, what I want, and where I want to be in life. My husband was my biggest supporter, and he would be proud as hell of everything I am doing now. His greatest joy was in watching me succeed. So, I know that I will survive and I will make something and create something and mold something out of this new, unwanted life. I know that I will, and I know that he will be in my soul always. I just miss him like hell, and it took me forever to find him, and then he was just gone. And I’m not sure that I know how to ever be okay with that.

We lived together on the same Island of Misfit Toys. We fit together so perfectly. Now I am stuck here on this island, and I am all alone. There are just some days where it feels like the only person in this world who truly understood me – is no longer here.

I want him back. He was my misfit, and we were misfits together in life. Without that, nothing seems to make much sense.