Missing and Missing Birthdays

Oy.  Have I ever been feeling overwhelmed lately.  It’s hard to hold onto the lesson I learned in my last post about staying in the moment.  Soaking in those little pieces of magic that come to you.  Stopping to pay attention.

As much as I’ve been super busy with work and just plain old life, sometimes feeling overwhelmed isn’t just because there is so much to do.  At least for me.  Sometimes I feel overwhelmed if I’m in an emotionally difficult place–I can’t concentrate on other things as well, so even the smallest task becomes overwhelming.  And lately, my emotions, as much as I tried to ignore them, have been keeping me distracted.

My dad, a truly wonderful person, passed away 5 years ago.  I struggle this time of year, noting the anniversary of his death and waiting for my birthday to pass (which comes about two weeks after) so I can just get back to “normal.”  The year he died, Dad was supposed to be away at a conference the weekend of my birthday, and he kept asking me if it was alright that he would be gone that day.  I told him it was no big deal.  But then, he  was really gone.  And he’s missed every birthday since.

But I digress.  There is a point to this somber revelry.

My parents on my mom’s 57th birthday.

I’ve been missing Dad lately, yes, but I’ve also just been missing the way things were.  Does it take 5 years to finally understand that things have changed forever?  That I can never go back to being the person I was when Dad was still here?  That my mother will never be the same either?  I think I was hoping that eventually we’d get back to those people–that happiness.  It doesn’t work that way though.

The people in that photo are gone.  That life is gone.  Dad is gone.  Still close to me–in my heart, in my mind–but gone.  My mother is a different woman without my dad.  She is still my loving, supportive mother, but she seems more fragile now.  Vulnerable.

Oh, there is so much that photo represents that I miss.  The messy dining room table.  The way an odd assortment of condiments  seemed to need to be on that table (honey, coffeemate, salt, pepper, sugar, butter, cinnamon, etc etc).  Dad’s post entree salad.  The traditional birthday cake and candles.  Dad’s comb-over (that I both hated and feared to see go…perhaps his hair worked like Samson’s.  If it was cut, perhaps he’d lose his strength: his brilliant mind). Dad’s sweater.  Oh that sweater.  I wear it around Lot 26 when I am feeling vulnerable.

I can hear Dad singing, in his operatic baritone, the “Happy Birthday” song, and breaking off at the end to sing a fantastic harmony that soared above the rest of us.  It’s hard to accept that I won’t be hearing that this Sunday as I eat my birthday cake.

Ack, more digressions.  I swear I was going somewhere with this.

I guess I’m just missing that life.  And feeling that absence has made living in the moment really difficult lately.  But I am trying to regain my foothold in the present and to feel less overwhelmed.

Last night, CF and I cleaned up after dinner, changed into pajamas, plopped ourselves down on the couch, and settled in for an old favorite movie and some homemade cupcakes.  For those couple of hours, I gratefully forgot all that had been weighing on me (work, grief) and just enjoyed my time with CF.  Laughing and indulging.  Soon, I got out a stack of our wedding photos and worked on placing them in a photo album (a project I’ve been putting  off to work on more “important” things).

It felt so good to be near someone I love.  To revel in a recent and happy past (our beautiful wedding).  To laugh together over a movie we’ve seen time and time again.  To eat together.  Just to be.

My birthday will come soon.  I want to fill my day with moments like that–present moments full of love and joy.  And cake.  Lots of cake.  And the beautiful ghost of my father’s sweet baritone voice.  Happy Birthday to Me.


About Cathy G Gilbert

I am veggie-loving, community college professor who lives, teaches, and writes in Central IL.
This entry was posted in Reflections. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Missing and Missing Birthdays

  1. 2810icb says:

    Feelings of grief, loneliness, and nostalgia that arise from the loss of a loved one, sparked by a memory, a certain smell, an unusual sense of deja vu, etc., all seem to me to be living in the present. Hugs!

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