Last night, Scott and I made our semi-annual trip to BD’s Mongolian Grill. The one where one of us gets to eat free because of a birthday coupon. Here’s the conversation that happened:
Waitress: What brings you in tonight?
Me: I have a birthday coupon.
Waitress: Oh, happy birthday!
Me: [silence] Thanks.
I hadn’t heard it yet. It hadn’t been said to me yet. But there it was, the reminder of what I knew was coming no matter how much I willed or wished that it would just pass. Can’t we just skip October 18 this year? Because that might be easier on me.
After asking me if there was anything I wanted for my birthday, Scott asked me last night while we were out: “I bet you just wish you could crawl under a desk and hide for the next day or so, huh?” Yep. I would love that. I would love to just hide, and ignore the flood of messages and Facebook wall posts, and all the other reminders that today I am another year older.
Thirty two looks a hell of a lot different than I had imagined. I remember sitting with Scott last year on my thirty first birthday, hopeful and full of anticipation as we talked about starting a family, about how next year would be so different, and about how we were so looking forward to the next year.
Instead, I sit here this morning reminded of all of the things this past year has left me with. Maybe this year has softened me. Maybe this year has left me more brave and courageous. At least people have been telling me those things. But this year has also left me so broken, and so hurting. It has left me with an intense grief. It has left our house with a perfectly planned nursery that sits empty with the door tightly shut. It has left us with an empty seat at the table and a hole in our family.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
Last night, I snapped this picture and sent it to a friend as I sat on the couch watching the Indians beat the Blue Jays while snuggling with our Alexander bear from Molly Bears. I didn’t even smile. This is the last picture I have of myself as a thirty one year old – the age I was when my son was born. The only age I got to be while holding Alexander in my arms. I look at this picture, and I see exactly what this year has left behind. Grief. Exhaustion.
Maybe thirty two will be gentler on me than thirty one. Maybe I’ll be able to look back next year and see more photos filled with smiles and moments of laughter.
But today, as Facebook wall posts and text messages have already started pouring in, I am reminded of how different this birthday should have been.
So, please be gentle today. Because this birthday isn’t nearly as happy as I wish it was. This birthday is just another reminder of what I’m missing–my sweet only son, Alexander. The one thing I would wish for more than anything and the one thing I’ll never have until we meet again in heaven.
What do I want more than anything for my thirty second birthday? I want people to acknowledge this day for what it is–that maybe it’s not just a “happy” birthday. Maybe it’s hard. Maybe it even sucks. I want people to remember my son and use his name. Help me to know that he won’t be left in the dust with thirty one.
Just please be gentle. And I’ll try to do the same.