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.
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.
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…