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.”