Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Anniversaries in September

Today is my 38th birthday, anniversary of my birth.  Also this month is the anniversary of my bad news diagnosis, which has turned instead into a rare gift, one which makes me value each day.  September is also the month Gonzo was hit by a car, but lived to bounce back better than ever.  I always remember where I was September 11th, 2001, as the summer days turn cool and blue.  And, the end of September marks the anniversary of my dad's passing. 

He died of Alzheimer's eight years ago on September 26th, 2003. It was a rainy Friday and I had been at the nursing home nearly non-stop for three days, but had gone to run errands, like cleaning his suit for the funeral and buying him a new tie in goldenrod yellow. Then, I went home for a nap.  I was sleeping when he died. 

For years as his disease progressed and his grasp on reality retreated, I would try to understand where or when in his memory did he think he was?  I watched him turn doorknobs in the center of a smooth wall, where there was no door.  I listened to him use German, reach for something in mid-air which I could not see, and call it, "Schoen."  It was beautiful, whatever he saw. That act of trying to get inside his head and understand my dad is what led to the writing of my book.

When I think too long about anything, I end up writing about it.  My blog usually follows a good lunch conversation or a walk with my girls.  I brooded about my dad's life and death for years, which has turned into a three hundred fifty-ish page novel.  I hope it makes sense to people who didn't live these events themselves.  I like that the timing of my book's release date coincides with September, the month when everything happens.  Because, even though great tragedies occurred this month, like 9/11, and my dad's passing, my bad health news, and Gonzo's accident, it is a beautiful month, too, to be alive and value each day.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My Best Birthday Gift

Next week will be my thirty-eighth birthday.  With that many under my belt, I've had some great birthdays, and some craptastic ones. 

The winner for worst, hands down, was my thirty-fifth.  Within twenty four hours of that horrible day, Gonzo was hit by a car, his hip dislocated, some fur and skin missing, and I didn't know if he was going to make it.  That same day, U of I neurology called and told me that best case scenario, there is remission, but no cure.  I don't know how many birthdays I have left, though, I suppose no one ever does.

Birthday runners-up for best include my twentieth, when my co-workers left my birthday gifts for me to find when I came into work that morning, and my thirtieth, when Erik and the kids made me a Gollum cake.  But, the best, hands down, was last year's.  I had dozens of people trek to my house for my Backwards Birthday Party (born in 73, turned 37, so I told my friends to buy themselves a gift.  Brilliant, no?). Even better, on the actual day, my best friend for life, Beck, took me to Devotay in Iowa City, where we drank too much sangria, ate emu, laughed until we cried and wandered around downtown Iowa City, where we met Manny and Dominique.  Best day ever.

I now really love celebrating my birthdays, even if I don't always remember how old I am, until I ask what year this is and do the math.  Sure, it's a crapshoot as to the quality of birthday, but I have a hunch this year will be a good one. Beck and I will once more spend the actual day at Devotay.  That weekend will be a shared birthday party for September birthdays in our pack and I am very excited about how many people can come.  And, after setting up that bash at Capone's, I found out from Becky that there was another party planned, a surprise party for me at Devotay, which I kind of ruined by organizing the Septembers deal. 

Even though I am bummed at wrecking my chance at the first surprise party of my life, I am still really happy, happier than I've ever been.  Three years ago, I was given a real gift, being reminded that life is finite. Every day with the people of my life is a gift: my daughters, my dog (still kicking!), my family, and my second family in my friends.  The best birthday gift doesn't come in a box; it's just knowing I am loved.  I don't want presents for my birthday.  Just presence.