I'm one of those people who hates birthdays. Not celebrating birthdays for others, love that, but when it comes to my own, not so much. Is it that I fear, or loathe getting older? Could be. If I had to pin down a reason why birthdays bother me, I'd have to say it has more to do with attention. I don't like the attention. I don't want gifts. Don't want people spending money on me. I don't like cake (prefer a hot slab of homemade strawberry-rhubarb pie, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, if you must know. And now you do. So make note of it...)
As I re-read the above paragraph, I sound like the Grinch. Or Scrooge. Or my great-great grandmother on my father's side. Either way, I speak the truth. Not a birthday person at all.
There's one reason why when that time of year rolls around I celebrate. My kids. I do it for them. No other reason.
A friend of mine, Abs, has a different reason for not liking her birthday. Eleven years ago her father, Sanford, passed away on her birthday. She was the classic, stereotypical "Daddy's Little Girl." Losing her dad was, as one can imagine, is still difficult. Sanford's ashes were taken out on a boat and poured into Lake Ontario. And then Abs jumped into the water and swam with her father one last time.
On her birthday, the anniversary of Sanford's death, Abs goes down to the lake. It's not her birthday she celebrates, not anymore, but her father's life. The man drank Beefeater's with Lime. Armed with alcohol, she either walks the shoreline, or the pier, and pours the drink into the water as the two spend time together.
This year, as I'd said, Sanford's 11th anniversary, a few of us joined our friend for the evening. We toasted Sanford's memory at The Pelican. Listened to stories. And took pictures as our friend poured her father's drink into the water.
Where are the pictures?
Well. Abs' daughter, Danielle, and her daughter's friend, Dre, joined the rest of us. Dre is a mountain of a person. Too much muscle for one person's skin to hold. We grouped together for a photo. Dre picked up the camera. It looked like a Matchbox car in his beefy hands. And then the camera fell. The protruding lens bent trapping photos inside the camera.
Anyway. We decided to head down to Durand. Abs wanted to swim. Mid-September. But understandable.
Durand was far from deserted. It being only 9:00 PM. A warm evening, with few clouds in the sky, it was not that dark. The stars were out. Shining. The moon set high. Bright. A gentle breeze came in from the North, but did not cause a single ripple on the placid lake. The water resembled glass.
Maybe for only ten minutes, Abs went into the water. Alone. And walked around. Her legs and feet disturbing the calm.
When the night ended, Abs was grateful. Where she normally spent most of her birthday alone, this year she was surrounded by family and friends who refused to let the birthday pass unnoticed.
I do, at times, ponder my own immanent demise. Suppose we all do. And as a father of three amazing kids, one of which is clearly, and undeniably "Daddy's Little Girl," I would hope that when I go, my kids will carry on. I would want them to remember me. I like how Abs honors the memory of her father. But I also hope that my death would not take away from the joys my kids can still extract from their life. As their father, I would not want them to be sad after I am gone. Maybe it's easier said than done. My parents are both still alive. Sadness may be inevitable, is inevitable. But as a father, I would not want my kids to mourn forever. Abs celebrates the life her father lived. And that is exactly what I would want my kids to do, too.
As I spend more time around more people, I am touched by the stories that make-up a person's life. Naturally curious, I find that non-fiction is far more profound than fiction. Guess I've always known that. For far too long I've lived life mostly inside my own head. Rarely venturing outside my family to see what life is really about.
The more I do this, the more people I meet, the more I learn.
Maybe because I married young, started a family immediately, and then spent most of my time working, I missed out on things going on around me? I do not regret those choices, getting married and starting a family. Things may have not turned out the way I planned. Life rarely does. If I'd not of met and married my ex-wife, I would not have the three wonderful kids I have. So no, no regrets.
What I take away from this experience, is what I have always known--but, again, on a larger scale. Life is about family and friends. About being there for each other. And about moving forward. One day at a time.
Author of the suspense thriller, The Molech Prophecy
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