The Missing 10

Birthdays are a strange thing. To celebrate momentous occasions such as graduations, retirements, and anniversaries seems fitting. After all, there was a worthy accomplishment that drove the event. But birthdays? I had literally nothing to do with mine. All of the precursory work was done by others. My only job was to breath and cry after the doctor slapped my butt.

At fifty, the doctor has other posterior procedures that bring me to tears. Life has come full circle.

But birthdays do change along the way. They no longer mark status changes – I can drive now, I can vote now, I can legally buy Billy Beer. Officially over the hill, birthdays mark descents into new decades. Why celebrate the slide down the hill? Some people do celebrate to the fullest – I’ve just never been one. I have always found it odd to say: “Congratulations! Well done on being born!”

And then, after so many birthdays, life inevitably deals us all a great loss and things like birthdays seem monumentally unimportant. Festive occasions are no longer the celebrations they should be. While there can be great fun, they also seem to highlight absence. Something is missing.

This year brought my fiftieth and my wife spearheaded a campaign. The girls wrote notes reminding me of the 50 times we had laughed together over the years (most of which were initiated by my stupid or immature behavior.) These were placed around the home and I stumbled on them throughout the day. With just the prompting of a few words, I relived memories that brought many smiles to my face.


Sister Bombs

Silly stories with Magoo & Bongo

Teaching daughters to pee on a tree



But the absence.

I did the math. As originally constituted, after removing the recipient (me) from the equation, our family was perfectly divisible by five. The fifty notes should have been divided up ten per member. But that’s not the way it works now. When divvied up that way there is a remainder of ten. Someone had to pick up the slack to get to fifty and it’s killing me to know what would be on the missing ten.

The missing ten. What would Kylie’s be? What made her smile? What did I do that brought her joy?

Sucking helium and singing show tunes

The bald buddy head butts

Building her dresser together


Those are some of my thoughts, but what would hers be?

I don’t doubt they existed and likely overlap some written by her sisters. But I yearn to know what hers are and I never will. The missing ten will forever haunt me. Somewhere inside, I know what she would say…



Daddy, don’t you remember that time? That time we ____?

Yeah, I remember. That was fun but I haven’t done it in years.

Why not?

It just isn’t the same anymore. Nothing is the same.

It’s only a little while until we can do it together again.

A little while? Wait, do you know something? Am I going to die soon?

That’s kind of a dumb question. Everyone is going to die soon. The question is, are you going to live now? Stop crying over the missing ten and make fifty more.


I wish I could, baby. I wish I could…

12 thoughts on “The Missing 10

  1. Another stellar blog post!

    Your wife and all your daughters gave you a lovely gift to celebrate your 50th. Hoping the next 50 are a good mix of extra sweet with the bitter.

  2. It’s funny, part of the reason I like to celebrate people’s birthdays is because now I know they aren’t guaranteed. It’s not so much about celebrating being born, but that there are people still here, making the world a better place.

    And you do that.

    Robin, Meredith, Kendall and Jenna do that.

    And Kylie most certainly did as well.

  3. Happy birthday 🎂 my husband feels a bit like you too, where he doesn’t feel like doing Christmas, he says it has lost it’s magical feeling since Jacob has been gone. Their absence permeates through everything that happens in our lives x I’m sure she has written her own little pieces of paper of the funny times had together and she may give you little signs throughout the day to let you know ♡

  4. Mark, you write so beautifully even though sadness is in every line. Kylie should have been here to write her 10. I never knew here except through your writing lens. I thank you for giving me & your other readers knowledge of Kylie. I am so sorry for your enormous ” forever loss “, that marks every day of your life, every occasion.

  5. i like how you worked through the process can to a wonderful conclusion. happy birthday, and here’s to 50 more. she is saving her 10 until she sees you again.

  6. The really cool thing about you and your family Mark is your making preparation here on earth to spend eternity together. All of us will die not if but when, because we surely will. When I seen Kylie’s smile it made me smile and made me sad. Looked over at Kelly’s picture and remember how much I miss her. Then I know I will spend eternity with her because of what I am doing today. Still miss her, just feel better knowing where she is at. We did a good job. We got them home. Here is to peace and joy in your home during the holidays Mark.

    Blessings and much love Tom

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