Within my families June is a busy birthday month. Yet I constantly forget it also contains mine until someone reminds me. Not as surprising, the same thing happened last year–as my birthday will forever occur exactly two weeks after Ken died. I had hoped it would be different this year–and I suppose it is. I’m not dreading it, I’m just indifferent to it. Last year, collecting the mail around this time was–for me–an exercise in terror. Birthday cards mixed in with sympathy cards–both well-meaning and kind–inextricably linked my birthday to Ken’s death. Will it always be like this?
Truth be told, before I met Ken I don’t remember caring that much about my birthday. And conversely, each of the ten Junes I spent with him, he made it special. But that’s just how it works in couples, right? You want to make a big deal out of their birthday and they want to do the same in kind. Ken delighted in giving and surprising–both on the small and large scale. On my birthday he took great pleasure in watching me be surprised, or happy or drunk (all of which may have happened on more than one occasion per year.) And in turn, I enjoyed watching how excited he was as he perpetrated crime after loving crime.
In 2008, he pulled out all the stops for my 40th birthday. I knew we were having a party, but there were plenty of surprises in store. In addition to several surprise friends from out-of-town, he’d tasked the guests with writing a scene about how each of them met me–and they acted it out on a beautiful, cloudless day in our back yard. “The Ronnie-ology” he called it, as he presented me with a book of the scripts. One of our friends recorded all the performances which I recently watched when I ran across it as I was organizing DVDs in the TV stand. Hilarious. A day that only conjures images of laughter, smiles and goodness.
(Me on left, cracking up while watching “The Ronnie-ology” and Ken, right, expertly and lovingly directing the show.)
Another birthday, he took me to the Lincoln Park Conservatory, and as we walked around, admiring the flora, we ran across a couple friends who were each “planted” along side all the greenery, holding Latin-inspired names for themselves (which escape me.) Another crazy surprise. I’m not sure if he was particularly good at it, or if I am just particularly dull when it comes to subterfuge.
My so-called “Jesus” Birthday (my 33rd) was the first I celebrated with Ken. We’d only been dating three months, but we knew we were a part of something special. He took it upon himself to organize a party of my besties at my apartment. My “friend” Tina, made this cake, comparing/contrasting me to Jesus:
(Jesus has the cross, I have the martini. This still makes me laugh. I love that my friends are such bitches.)
The last birthday I have any recollection of celebrating with Ken was 2009, as we drove to Iowa with our pal Bruce to apply for a marriage license–which at the time had only recently been legalized there. Make no mistake, we always felt married and no piece of paper from anyone could ever make it more “valid,” but we decided it was the right thing to do in order to send a message. It was a political statement that resulted in two fun road trips to Iowa with friends. Oddly, given the time of year and the same summer weather as then, it feels like it can’t possibly have been three years ago–and that everything that has happened has actually happened.
We’ll see. Just writing this post got some good birthday mojo flowing for me. And no one is happier to report that than I am. Even though I’ve already experienced one birthday without him, that it’s so close to the anniversary of death still tinges it with a little bit of a sting.
I’m still working out how I’ll spend my day, but I know that Ken will–as always–be close to my heart, and that I’m supported by innumerable well wishers as I turn 33…for the 11th time.