I’m already 45 in every other part of the country save those of us out here on the currently burning West Coast. The weather today was the same as it will be tomorrow, on my birthday: highs in the 90s, air quality unhealthy.
The rest of my family (my wife and our two sons) have birthdays in February, so this is our first pandemic birthday, nearly 7 months in. Honestly, though, at this age being stuck inside doesn’t have a huge impact on my birthday plans. My niece’s birthday is 3 days after mine, and if anything we’d be doing something for her, not me. And that is more than fine by me. Kids parties are always way more fun than anything adults come up with.
But this is a strange year for me even beyond the fact that 200K Americans have died from a virus that has run basically unchecked through our country. It’s strange even beyond the fact that the number 45 has forever been tainted in the eyes of anyone with an ounce of humanity. It’s strange even beyond another heat wave and so much smoke in the air that the world smells like the inside of a grill.
This is my first birthday since I cut my father out of my life.
I could go into great detail about why I did this, and maybe sometime I’ll get drunk enough to do just that, but the bottom line is that he is toxic, he’s always been toxic, and I can’t have him around my family.
As with most kids of abusive parents, it took protecting my own children for me to finally do something.
My mom and I still have a relationship, strained as it may be given the circumstances. I have no idea what she’s going to do tomorrow, since she has talked to me on every birthday I’ve ever had. She’ll have to find a way to sneak out of the house to call me.
That right there should tell you a lot.
My dad’s birthday was last week. I’m a reflective person on most days, but as I get closer to my birthday I start to think about every aspect of my life; I take stock of everything I’ve ever done that has led me to this point. And, honestly, the last few years have gotten pretty positive reviews.
I cut my dad out of my life via letter, a letter he responded to by placing all the blame on me and by playing the “woe is me” card. And he more or less said he’d never bother me again.
I gave him the most cut and dry moment to prove that he actually cared about me and he walked away.
So there was a period of time leading up to his birthday when I thought maybe I’d hear from him. Maybe he would do what I do on my birthday. Maybe he would look at his life and wonder what he had done wrong and what he could do better.
His birthday came and went.
There was no reason for me to think that he would have some kind of suddenly realization. I don’t even think a theoretical death bed would make that happen.
But, god, if one of my children said they didn’t want me in their life anymore I would do whatever I could to fix that. I would do ANYTHING. If you truly cared for someone, why would you just let them go?
Most of the time I don’t even think about my father. I had limited my interactions with him so much that cutting him out of my life almost felt like a formality. I feel bad for my mom, although I probably have more empathy for her than I should all things considered. My brother and I still talk here and there, but we never talked a lot to begin with.
So what happens tomorrow? What happens when I wake up and I’m 45?
I think I’ll probably get hugs and kisses from the 3 most amazing people on earth. I think I’ll spend the day with them, laughing, smiling, rolling around on the floor, jumping on the couch, snuggling in bed, loving each other like it’s all we know.
And I’ll got to bed happy. It won’t be because of the Scotch, which I will no doubt consume at some point. It will be because I have the most amazing life. It has taken me 45 years to get here, but, god, the destination has been worth it all.
Everything else is prologue.
I’m in the middle of the book, now, and it’s gotten really, really good.