And while I am truly grateful for another trip around the sun, since Dominic left us it’s not a simple celebration of life lived and the hope of years to come.
The last birthday I had with an unbroken family circle was a lovely surprise party for my fiftieth held in Dom’s apartment.
Seven years later and it seems a lifetime ago.
So when I wake up to another sunrise and take inventory (as those of us who reach a certain age are wont to do) on the anniversary of my birth, I count losses as well as gains.
And I wish, wish, wish that old wives’ tale about blowing out candles in a single breath were true.
Because other than the continued health of my surviving children, there’s only one wish worth the air I take in and out of my lungs-something Dominic can never do again-and that is for him to have the privilege of blowing out the candles once more.
It’s not only HIS birthday that makes my heart ache.
I admit I’m full of words. When my mama came to pick me up when her best friend was babysitting for awhile, she said, “You can’t have her yet, she’s telling me all kinds of things!”
More than once my mouth got me in trouble.
It’s still the source of most of my problems.
But for a time after Dominic left I found that the only words I could muster beyond what was absolutely necessary were written in my journal. Because the words I wanted to say were bitter and harsh and tasted bad as they came up my throat and threatened to roll off my tongue.
It has taken me a lot of time and a lot of energy to do the work grief requires. There’s no short-circuiting the process. No way to rush through the painful and necessary steps.
For years I struggled with why, “Just think about the memories” didn’t comfort my heart. I treasured them. I tried hard to hold onto them. But that wasn’t enough.
And then I realized that a mother’s heart is not prepared to go on without the company of her child. I never, ever expected that it would be ME reminiscing about Dominic. I was sure it would be HIM thinking about me.
I pull out the memories like treasures from a locked strongbox.
“Handle With Care” because they are all I have left.
But they are not enough.
They will never be enough to satisfy this mama’s heart.
We are supposed to have to remember our elders, our grandparents, even, maybe our spouse at some point-but not our children.
I’m sure retirement is an adjustment for everyone. One or both partners ending long-time work and coming home to unlimited hours of schedule-less days is HUGE.
For my husband and me it’s been perhaps even a bit more tricky.
The past eight years he’s worked out of town-WAY out of town-2000 miles from our little redneck hermit home in the woods of Alabama. So when he hauled his accumulated stuff across six states and showed up at the door it felt a little bit like an invasion.
I know, I know, my traditional friends are cringing that this Jesus-loving, (mostly!) submissive wife would say that aloud.
But let’s be honest.
I’ve been a stay-at-home wife/mother/educator for thirty-six years. These walls are my castle (such as it is) and this land is my kingdom. I’ve had to learn to do lots of things on my own because I was (pretty much) on my own. I couldn’t call hubby to come home and fix the drainpipe or chase off a fox or dog threatening the livestock.
Of course, our youngest son has always made himself available (since he lives close) but I try not to burden him too much with anything less than a true emergency.
Do the math.
Thirty-six years of marriage divided by eight years away. Yep. Nearly a full quarter of our years have been spent largely apart.
So there’s a little adjusting to do.
We’ve had some out and out fights (not going to sugar coat it ) but we’ve also had some beautiful moments when we look at one another and recognize afresh what drew us together in the first place.
Laughter has ALWAYS been the glue in our relationship.
And let me just tell you that the combination of aging minds, bodies and an aging house has provided plenty of hilarious moments.
We’ve searched for days looking for important documents only to find them barely hidden under some random sales ad on the kitchen table. We forget why we walk from one room to the next. We repeat the same question to one another at least two or three times a day and depending on how sassy we feel either answer again or question the other’s mental status.
Laughter lubricates life.
It makes otherwise frustrating and fear-inducing moments bearable.