Thank You, Thank You, Thank You

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 9.40.27 PMI’m not going to mince words; it makes me irrationally joyful to get birthday greetings via Facebook.

As far as I can tell there are at least five categories of birthday greetings/greeters on Facebook. The first birthday salutation, which I call the “bare basics birthday greeting”  is the most rudimentary of the lot. It is a simple and unvarnished, “Happy Birthday.” It’s almost transferable in its anonymity except for the fact that it’s written on your wall, on your birthday. It doesn’t take a tremendous amount of thought, but it’s still lovely that someone took a moment out of his/her day to say happy birthday to you.

The next level of greeting is, “Happy Birthday, Helene (substitute your name here).” This type of post is a step up from the bare basics birthday greeting because the use of your name clearly indicates that this greeter has definitely thought about you as they had to figure out your name before posting.

Next up is what we’ll call the “additional sentence” poster. These posts say, “Happy birthday (your name)” and then an additional sentence follows that salutation. The follow-up sentence generally says, “Have a nice day.” or “Have a great day.” or “I hope it’s a good one.” Now these posters deserve a bit more praise than category one and two posters because they have gone the extra mile in wishing upon you not only a happy birthday but also a great or happy day.

As an aside, I think this is the perfect spot to mention a subcategory of the “additional sentence” poster, those who wish you a “Happy, happy birthday or just “Happy day” or Happy, happy, happy.” It seems to me that these posters also deserve a tad more credit because they took the time to wish you that extra modicum of happiness.

At the top of the birthday greeter’s pyramid are those of your friends who mention something that is personal to you, post a picture with you in it, mention that they love you or use an exclamation point or any other punctuation in their post. I call these posters the “whole enchilada” posters. You should expect this type of greeting from people with whom you have an intimate relationship, but be forgiving of those close to you who struggle with this kind of Facebook intimacy especially if they are over 45. Kids these days seem to have endless pictures of their friends and are rarely self-conscious about expressions of love. They are also free with the use of superlatives so that every friend is the best and the prettiest. We older folks just are not as good with that kind of thing.

Let’s not even get to the etiquette of how to appropriately respond to Facebook birthday greetings. My 18-year-old son says there is a simple rule, everyone or no one. In my case if you have jumped the gun and began the day by liking the first few posts individually, you can really get yourself into heaps of trouble because when the greetings start pouring in you just can’t continue “liking” them all.

So my answer is a large thank you to everyone because I truly, truly loved each and every greeting. From the bare basics posters to the whole enchilada posters-I love you all and appreciate your good wishes.

Oh, and one more thing, if you forgot to post, no worries, there’s always next year.

Missing Dad

get-attachment-3.aspxIt’s almost April 6th again dad.  You would be 83.

Can it really be fourteen years since you left us?  So long ago but I remember so many details vividly, as if it was yesterday.  I remember the fear in your eyes when you said you thought you needed to go to the hospital. It was only three weeks from that moment until the final goodbye.  Still, today, the shock of that gnaws at me.  Could we have done something differently, something that might have changed the outcome or was your death fated?  I can still smell the ICU, and see the last book you were reading, Boychiks in the Hood, sitting on your hospital tray.  After you lost consciousness, I made a copy of your curriculum vitae and pinned it to your hospital wall.  I wanted the hospital staff to know who they were treating, as if it mattered.  You were someone. I can hear you now. In your soft measured tone you would say, “Helene, everyone is someone.”  But, you were my someone.  The foolish things we do.  I remember the former student who appeared in your hospital room one day to read you poetry.  I don’t remember his name.  Could you hear him and did his reading soothe or irritate you?

The grief that followed came in crushing waves. Being alone in the car seemed particularly bad. Often I would pull off the road racked with sobs.  The children were so young.  When “A” didn’t seem appropriately sad I asked, “Aren’t you sad that Papa Dad died?” and he answered, “Not as sad as I’ll be when you die.”  And, I knew it was true but how did he know it was true?  The kids were ruthless in their insistence that life goes on.  I wanted to wallow but they wouldn’t allow it.  They demanded my caretaking and in their childish way of speaking plainly they asked over and over about death and marveled at its finality and each time I explained, “that, no, we would never see Papa Dad again” I struggled to keep the quiver out of my voice and the tears at bay. But, in time, the wound, so raw and gaping scabbed over, tenderly at first and then with more permanence, so much like a physical wound.

Sometimes, I panic. Is my memory of you fading? Do I remember the sound of your voice? Are you slipping away from me?  But then, I see something of you in one of the boys and it leaves me breathless.  I wish you were here to see them and know them; A’s thoughtfulness and wordsmithery, J’s cleverness and keen wit, D’s kindness and wise old soul. They are a living monument to you, better than the most ornate headstone. You live on inside of them and inside of me.

We miss you today, and everyday. Happy Birthday dad.

Happy Twenty-One

376925_2377779637408_1114509731_nIt’s March 18th and it’s snowing.  Just like it was twenty-one years ago.

Twenty-one years ago on a snowy evening like this one I went into labor and the following morning I became a mother.  Has it been twenty-one years already?  Has it only been twenty-one years? Nothing prepared me for that experience.  Nothing. Not the well-intentioned warnings of veteran parents. Not the hundreds of parenting tomes that I had read in preparation for the grand event.  It happens every day.  It is the most routine of matters, giving birth.  But, when it happens to you, the world shifts on its axis.  It is the most extraordinary of events. The nurses handed me my baby and said, “Congratulations, mom.”  I looked around.  Who were they calling mom?

It didn’t go well for Mr. Baby and me in the beginning.  We didn’t suit.  I wanted to sleep, he didn’t.  I wanted to go places and, apparently, where I went, he too, went.  It was hard to wrap my mind around that.  I relished quiet and order and he loved noise and chaos. We were really at cross purposes. As he clung to me with tightly fisted hands, his baby breath warm on my face, the enormity of the task loomed terrifyingly before me. I knew only one thing with clarity, I would throw myself in front of a train to keep my baby safe.  It was a start.  I threw out the books.  I followed my gut.  We taught each other.  He cried, I cried.

Some days were endless, hauling the little fellow from one baby friendly apparatus to another, ten minutes under the Gymini, then ten in the swing, then ten in that bouncy seat.  I looked at the clock and then, startled, looked again and wondered how it was possible for time to move backwards.  Now, I wonder how it is that endless days turned into years that flew?

Today, I look out at the snow.  He calls from college.  “It’s snowing,” he says.  “Do you remember,” I ask, “that it snowed the night I went into labor with you?”  “I guess I don’t remember it that well” he replies. You were all there, my boy, in that tiny, little bundle they handed me.  And, I was “mom” even if I didn’t realize it yet. We found our way, together. We figured it out.

It’s March 19th and you are twenty-one.  Happy birthday, my sweet boy!