Grief Diary: A Birthday That Never Was

Male hated birthdays. He never celebrated them and tried to hide the fact from everyone he knew. He really kind of hated celebrations of any kind. His favorite holiday was the 4th of July because it didn’t involve familial obligation, getting dressed up or a sit down dinner.

I’m avoiding Facebook, which I’m sure has tons of maudlin crap on it that I don’t want to see. I really hate how death plays out on social media. The people who were closest to him aren’t on Facebook talking about it anyway. It’s all the others. I don’t want to see the others talking about him.

You know the others: the people who knew him when he was young, but hadn’t laid eyes on him in fifteen years. The ex-girlfriends, the former classmates and coworkers, the friends that drift apart. The ones who don’t invite you to weddings or christenings or parties anymore. The ones you don’t ask to help you move. The ones you don’t call at 3am when your car dies on the side of the 15 on your way home from Vegas.

Male didn’t care about the others either. He said, “I have enough friends” and he did. He was lucky to have a group of friends, his family, made up of people he could call any time, day or night, to help with anything and they would, even if they were in another time zone. Fuck the others. Fuck their Fakebook sadness.

How do you celebrate someone’s birthday when they’re dead anyway? Male wouldn’t want me to celebrate it, alive or dead. He’d want the day to pass like any other, but this year was a milestone birthday. He would have turned 40.

He always said he wouldn’t see it. He knew the odds were against him living four decades. It turned out, he was right and his rightness irritates me.

Just in the last few of years of his life, his thinking shifted from “I won’t live to see 40” to “maybe I can make it to 50.”  He didn’t think he would live to see retirement, but he started talking about 50 as if it was a thing that could happen. It was only in the last few years of his life that he started to think that maybe there was a future. That’s why he went to law school.

He and I both lived in what I call survival mode, running from day to day, only thinking about today or maybe tomorrow–never next week, next year, next decade. What do I need to survive now?

I was never quite as fatalistic as him with a hard and fast deadline like 40 or 50, but that’s mostly because I just don’t worry about how long I have. All I know is that I have today and maybe tomorrow if I’m lucky.

His shift to 50-thinking was contagious. I began thinking it, too. Maybe there is such a thing as a future. Maybe when he’s graduated law school, we can settle down somewhere new and have what passes for a normal life for people like us. Maybe there is a 50. But then, he went and died on me without giving me a future. It was only a mirage. There is only today and maybe tomorrow if I’m lucky.

His 50-thinking was never realized. He never even made it to 40. The fact that he was right about not seeing 40 pisses me off; not at him, but at a world that would take that away from both of us.

The last time I saw him, he said the rest of his life, until 50 as he saw it, was mine. I don’t think either of us thought that the rest of his life would measure less than two months from the time he said that.

Still, I am glad that he got to see the horizon before he died. I like the notion that, even briefly, he was able to believe in a future that was never meant to be for either of us.