This will be my first birthday without you. You always sent me a sweet card in the mail and called to sing me the birthday song first thing in the morning. How I will miss that.
When I think about you that way, my heart aches. It's better if I try to think about all of the wonderful birthdays you, Mom and I spent together. I am going to need every last one of those happy memories to get me through.
As the day approaches, I keep remembering your version of the story of my arrival. You used to tell anyone who would listen what it was like for you the day I was born, and it never failed to make me smile.
Yours wasn't a modern birth story. While Mom was laboring, you stayed with Nana in the hospital waiting room except for brief visits with Mom. I hate the idea of Mom being mostly alone for all of that time, but that's how things were done at the time, and it isn't the point of this story.
The point is your story.
Your version of the story usually began with the obstetrician coming to tell you, "you have a big fat baby girl!" while still wearing blood-covered scrubs. Eek. You were always squeamish and hated even a mention of blood and guts, so thank you for remaining upright on my birthday.
I always loved the way you'd say "BIG FAT BABY GIRL" using your hands to show just how big.
The fact that you and Mom had a daughter was a surprise for I was born before ultrasounds were a routine part of prenatal care. Mom swears that you also hoped for a baby girl. I worried sometimes that you would have loved a son instead given your hobbies, but your love and limitless support let me know you were so invested in me.
[So Many Dance Recitals, Dad. How can I ever thank you?]
Seven or eight babies were born right around the same time as me - all boys. Periodically, the curtain of the newborn nursery would be opened to signal that parents could request to see their babies. You used an envelope to make a sign announcing KEENE so you could avoid the scrum. Whether due to the smart sign or your sweet smile, I was usually the first baby brought out by a nurse.
It wasn't long ago that you gave me the sign, and I'm so grateful to have it. You kept the sign with a cache of cards I had made and given you throughout my life. My sweet, sentimental Dad.
Today I think of that hopeful man, waiting for his baby to be born, and cry because I know how the story ends. I wish I could un-read the last page.
Someday, our many happy memories will mute the pain of losing you. But I'm not there yet. Not even close.
This will be my first birthday without you. I would try to pretend that it is just another day, but I know that would make you sad. And in the terrible months since we lost you, I have been trying to balance mourning your absence with living my life in a way that would make you proud. I hope I am doing a good job.
ETA: I am raising money to find a cure for Pulmonary Hypertension, the condition that ended Dad's life. Details here.