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.”

How To Annoy People In Love On Valentine’s Day (from a bitter Widow)

Ever since losing my husband to a sudden heart attack on July 13, 2011, I have had hard days; and really hard days. There are days that I wake up after only 2 or 3 hours of sleep, and I think to myself: I might be okay today. And then I might be for a few hours. And then I’m suddenly not. Okay. On other mornings I get out of bed, go to work, or do whatever else needs to be done that day, and the whole time I’m thinking to myself: I can’t wait to get back home again and just sit in my bed and cry. It is a pretty sad state of affairs when you actually can’t wait to get home and cry.

My kitties have their moods too. Some days they randomly decide they don’t want to eat anything that I give them, even though they loved that same food the day before. Other days they eat too much, way too fast, and they decide to start throwing up all over the apartment. The best, though, is when they sleep all day long; and then choose the minute I go to bed to start acting like lunatics. Autumn will stare at the ceiling and meow nonstop. Don and I used to say that she sees dead people up there. Now I think maybe she sees Don, and I’m jealous of her because I can’t see him or feel him, so I beg my cat like a crazy person to please tell my husband I love him. Sammy was Don’s sweet boy. Sammy loved Don and followed him everywhere, all of the time. When Don would sleep, Sammy would sleep on Don’s head. On his HEAD! He would wake Don up at insane hours like 4am, by pawing and clawing and giving him love-bites and purring loudly into his ear, banging his head up against Don’s face. He would not stop until Don got out of bed and fed him. Even if you had fed him 4 hours before that, it didn’t matter. If he still had food in his dish, it didn’t matter. This cat would bug the shit out of my poor husband until he got up and fed him. I used to laugh, then roll over and go back to sleep. Well, I’m an asshole, because now I’m the one getting up at 4am to put “fresh” dry food into this cat’s bowl so he will go the hell away and let me sleep.

This morning was different though. On this morning, our sweet Sammy decided to grieve extra hard for Don, by leaping up onto my chest at 5am, when I was finally fast asleep. He scared the shit out of me. I screamed. My arm flung across my chest and flung him off me, and he jumped, his back paw and very large, sharp claw hitting my right eye and underneath it. My cat scratched my cornea, and underneath my eye looked like I had been molested by a tiger. That is how this morning began. Generally, if you have one of those days where you get up, and within minutes, you are thinking: I should never leave the house today and just go back to bed – it is probably a good idea to never leave the house and just go back to bed.

That is what I should have done. Instead; I had things to do. I had to go to the store and pick up some food, cards, detergent … why am I telling you what I bought? You don’t give a shit.  Let’s just say I had to buy stuff. I walked into the grocery store, and the entire store was red and pink. Plastic, tacky heart decorations and large teddy bears holding cheap chocolates permeated the aisles. Love and Hallmark were in the air. Only 3 more days until Valentine’s Day. It will be my first one as a widow, my first one without my husband. I walk by a row of cards, and one says: “Marriage Means Growing Old Together.” Another one shows an older couple and reads: “I Want to Grow Old With You.” My one good eye starts welling up with tears, and I start crying in the middle of the stupid grocery store. There is a bandage over my other eye, so I look like a sad pirate perusing and sobbing over loving cards. People in the store must be extremely confused by my presence. I want to scream out: “ARRRRR!!!!”, but I’m not in the mood to be funny.

When I get to the register, there is a couple in their 70’s or 80’s in front of me paying for their things. The husband is lightly teasing the wife; they are bantering and joking around. It is very sweet, and I am so angry and jealous of them and their time together. As he puts all the heavy items onto the counter for her, she looks at me and says: “My husband is so good at that! He always makes sure I don’t have to use my muscles.” She laughs. I smile with my lips, and cry through my one open eyeball. She looks in fear at my pirate eye and they leave, leaning on one another, literally.

This has turned into one of those days where I should have stayed home, and where I couldn’t wait to sit in my bed and cry. Just about anything and everything can cause it, but on this day, it is the thought that I will never grow old with my husband; and that I could possibly grow old and BE old all alone. There won’t be anyone holding onto me as we go up the ramp to the Golden Corrall for the Early Bird 4pm Fish Fry Dinner. My fears about death and getting old and sick make me instantly hate that couple. My memories of the dinners and the beautiful roses and the lovely, thoughtful cards, and the “I love you, Boo” and those gorgeous blue eyes looking into mine make me hate anyone who gets to have a Valentine’s Day with someone they love. I have grown tired of crying, and grieving. It is so damn exhausting. It is time now to get pissed. Since there is nobody in particular to be pissed at, I will just be pissed at earth and life and humans. As Valentine’s Day quickly approaches, I have decided to make a wish list of all the things I would LOVE to do on that day, but cannot, because I would be arrested. Here are my Top 11 Ways to Annoy Those in Love on Valentine’s Day: (Most Lists are top ten lists, but as always, in the spirit of my husband’s favorite movie This Is Spinal Tap and Nigel, “these go to eleven.”

 

1. Go into Walgreen’s, CVS, and other drugstores that sell cheap-ass, stale candy like “Whitmann’s” – and wait for men to pick it up to purchase. Whenever a guy picks up a box, just look at him and say: “Really? This is what you’re going with? Seriously? If I were you, I wouldn’t even bother with the red tacky heart shaped balloon on a stick. Now you’re just being insulting.”

2. Stand at the Port Authority bus terminal, or the grocery store, where men go to buy last-minute bouquets of flowers. I would stand in front of the display and just yell out, as if I’m the one selling them: “Get your discounted, nonpersonal, I don’t give a shit about you at all, flower arrangements right here! These flowers are guaranteed to live for your entire car ride home – up to 10 miles. Tell your girl to ignore the weird, musty smell coming from inside the bouquet. We don’t know what it is either. Please don’t ask. She can water these, but it won’t help. These flowers WILL die, suddenly and without warning. Just like my husband!”

3. This next one was my friend Elayne Boosler’s idea, and I love it. Stand outside in the middle of NYC somewhere, maybe in Central Park, where lots of couples would be walking by. As loving pairs stroll by, make rude comments about them under my breath, judging their relationship out loud: “Oh yeah, THAT will last!”, or “Oh, like she isn’t using him for his huge bank account. Please!” or “How original. Your hand inside her jeans back pocket. Lame!” This would make me giddy.

4. Go to a restaurant, put my name on the reservations list with the last name “Widow”, so they will have to call out: “Widow – Party of One. Widow – Party of One???” Get a table in the center, alone, and wait for all the many couples to show up together, celebrating Valentine’s Day. Once the place is filled with happy couples; start loudly talking and giggling to myself as if there is another person there with me. Act extra giddy. Laugh loudly, pull out a rose from under the table, present it to myself, and say: “Oh baby! You SHOULDN’T have! For meeeee?” Bat my eyes. Unbutton the top two buttons on my blouse, look across the table and say: “Oooh! Here? Right now? You naughty, naughty boy!” Then get up, holding hands with my imaginary lover, and exiting the place, leaving them all completely confused and wondering.

5. Start my own line of “Widow Anti – Valentines Day Conversation Hearts”, and replace all the normal ones in stores with mine. They would have messages like:  “Everyone Will Die”, “Love Ends When One of You Dies”, “I Am Completely Alone”, “This Heart Was Made With Real Tears”, “Happy Valentine’s Day! I’m Dead!”, “Will You Be My Valentine … Cat?”, “Be Mine – Until I Die Unexpectedly”, “All We Are Is Dust In the Wind”, “You Might Choke on this Heart and Die”, “There’s a Good Chance One of Us Will Get Cancer Someday”, “Nobody is Promised Tomorrow”, “Enjoy this Sugary Treat Knowing that My Husband Had a Heart Attack!”, “Text Me! No Wait – Never Mind. My phone Is Disconnected Cuz I’m Dead.” Okay, most of these most likely wouldn’t fit onto a tiny little candy heart, but this is a fantasy, so let’s just pretend it does.

6. Get a hold of every single romantic comedy ever made in the history of time, go through and at the very beginning, add a shot of me saying into the camera: “SPOILER ALERT! None of this matters! Everybody Dies!” Then, each movie ends the exact same way, with text across the screen reading: “Two weeks later, they were both tragically killed.”

7. Go through every card aisle of every Hallmark store on earth with magic marker and put sad faces and giant penis drawings on all of the Valentine’s Day cards. Hide behind display and laugh.

8. Pre-chew all of the Valentine’s Day chocolates and then put them back into their little wrappers. Replace identification signs like “Vanilla Cream” and “Rasberry Filling” with signs that say things like: “This tastes like Ass”, or, “Unidentifiable Orange Disaster”, or, “Smells of Poop.”

9. Be the person in charge of the messages that get attached to all of the flower deliveries, and mix them all up so they go to inappropriate people. Send a dozen roses with the message: “I can’t wait to be alone with you tonight. You make me so hot!” to some dude’s mom. Creepy.

10. Crash a wedding. Wait for the priest to say “If anyone here does not approve of this marriage, speak now or forever hold your piece…” (Okay. Nobody actually says that in weddings. Ever. I have never once heard it in my entire life and I’ve been to a lot of weddings. But again … this is a fantasy, so let’s pretend.) When he says that, yell from the back of the church:  “I DO NOT CONDONE THIS UNION!!!” Then drop your pants and blast the Benny Hill theme song over the loudspeakers. When it ends, leave slowly and awkwardly; sans pants.

11. Bring my husband’s death certificate all over the place, and keep presenting it at stores as if it’s a gift card or discount card. “Excuse me, do you offer a Widow Discount? But I have this death certificate …. ” “Yes, it’s Valentine’s Day, and my husband died. I’d like to buy myself some flowers and chocolates. What is your policy on Widow Discounts? Here is the death certificate … ” “Can I just get HALF of a banana split? I have nobody to split it with, since my husband is dead and all. Please give me the Widow Price. Here’s the certificate…”

In reality, I will most likely just sit home on Valentine’s Day and stare at the wall. Or have dinner with our kitty cats and then watch them throw up. But I’m not bitter or anything.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Love is in the air. And then you’re dead.