We celebrated with friends, family, neighbors and co-workers and did fun, silly, amazing and sentimental things. We watched coy swim for about an hour. We danced until our feet hurt. We ate cake and lit candles. We stuffed our tummies and drank mimosas until the sun set. We sang and prayed and talked and wandered and loved.
Laughing hysterically, we got over the wildly awkward period between when my birth date passed and when the surprise lunch work tradition played out.
My father, love-nugget and I were driving home from a wonderful dinner, listening to the Whispers while my dad got sentimental. Mind you, my dad is an amazing, passionate, and powerful man, father, businessman, and community leader. So when he gets sentimental it reads like a dramatic Spielberg film.
As he waxed on, offering thinly veiled references and advice on life, and on my and my love-nugget’s relationship, we listened with soft affirmative, “mm-hmmms”, yeah’s”, and laughter. ‘Cause he won’t let you get a word in edgewise. Not that you’d want to with the jewels he drops.
I guess our affirmation provided the perfect comfort zone because his daddy comments turned to reminiscing.
He explained, as the Whispers played, that he remembered being backstage for their performances when he was playing piano with my mother’s band. How they were madly in love and the world was in turmoil and the music compelled them.
He and my mom divorced when I was two.
Once, during a weekend with her after my 4th birthday, we were living it up at Chuck-E-Cheese, celebrating the special day. I turned to her, happy and content, to ask what day it was. The 13th, she replied. Pleased, I looked forward to November 13th as my birthday until the next year when I learned the truth.
On 11-5-11, listening to my father talk about how much he had loved my mother, I fell silent immediately, fighting back tears… Focusing on anything, everything that rushed by in the world outside.
It was the first time in thirty years he had spoken about how in love they were.
Mind you, my Dad remarried, everyone gets along, blah blah blah blah. While he’s never bad-mouthed my mother out of respect and care… He also never talked about how they were high school sweethearts, their marriage, their family of three children.
I was so young and am generally so flippin’ pleased about everything for no good reason, the divorce didn’t play out emotionally.
It used to be easy to rest in that, to pretend my ticket was the fast-track past the weight of it all. Where maybe there should have been feelings of pain, abandonment, anger, guilt… There’s always been an eerie nonchalance about the entire thing, which I thought was ok.
But it isn’t.
If I accepted that I was too young to know what was going on, I could also accept that I was too young to feel anything or think about it. Too young to wonder why they didn’t love each other anymore. Why she didn’t love us enough to fight for custody. Why I didn’t have what the little girls in the movies did: Dress-up, boy-talk, costumes, and prom prep with their mommies. How you can be madly in love with someone for it all to fall apart.
Lots of things are easy.
It’s easier to buy fast food than cook an exquisite meal. Easier to do shots of tequila than prepare a delicious martini. Easier to date whoever you want than commit to one person. Easier to hire help than do your own housework. Easier to hate an enemy than forgive them. Easier to not care than love. Easier to be angry than find joy. Easier to be sad than settle in peace.
My dad asked what caused my silence, and it would have been easy to say I was just tired. Instead, I explained how powerful it was to hear him talk about their love. To realize how little I felt and how wrong that was. To realize how much I didn’t know, that I needed to know. To ask for his help in figuring it out.
I don’t do easy.
It’s difficult, but thrilling to uncover my core: Discover who I really am and who I’m not. It takes a hell of a lot of courage but honestly, there is an easy part. That’s in knowing there is nothing but goodness and mercy planned for me, all the days of my life.
As I move, determined and patient through my thirty-third year, what a remarkable revelation, that an innocuous conversation helped me to be born again.
This year will be one of learning, growing, mastering, digging, and reveling in all the twists and turns and somersaults ahead.
I’m so excited to see what’s in store.