Today is my 44th birthday.
My birthday hasn’t really been something to celebrate for years, now. It’s a day closer to my death, a day to mark my mortality. It’s day that reinforces my loneliness. It’s a day to mark and measure the failures of my life.
My late father was a birthday twin of mine. Every birthday I have, is a reminder that my father has passed on, and that one day, I will die, too. It’s inescapable for me not to think of that.
It goes further, though.
Growing up, a bunch of family birthdays were celebrated all at once in Early October, rather than having an individual birthday celebration for me or a dual one for my father and I. While these family gatherings, at my grandmother’s house, were usually pleasant affairs, and there is a sense of family and camaraderie in having a grand birthday celebration, there is also something smaller about having a piece (and a small piece) of a celebration, rather than a celebration of one’s own. Sure, my mother made a birthday dinner every year, but really, any real celebration was usually deferred to the big family one.
The year that my grandmother passed away was a particularly tough one. She died only a few days before my birthday, and in the somber mood of that year, there wasn’t a birthday celebration, for the family, or for me.
I give credit to my friends Nicole, Matt and Bridgette. They surprised me with a surprise birthday party, once. An event never repeated before, or since. It was delightful, and memorable, just because it was so unexpected. So singular. It was a celebration not for the entirety of my family, or even my father and me. It was a celebration for ME.
I don’t follow astrology, but for the astrologically minded, I am a “shy introverted Libra”. I want to be social, I want people to like me, I want people to do stuff with me—but I have doubts when such social affairs occur, and I find it painfully impossible to propose such things. So, in the 13 years since I left New York City, my birthdays have been painfully lonely affairs.
In 2002, during my sojourn in California, my birthday was an abject failure. I took a long trip by bus and trail all the way to the Getty Museum to celebrate my birthday. It was a long, arduous trip. The worst part of it was—my attempts to call people, there, to try and reach out, all failed. I felt utterly, terribly, alone.
That was the start of the dark season , the dark season when I seriously contemplated suicide.
Beyond that dark moment, there were few celebrations (although sometimes My Friends the Olsons™ would invite me over once I moved to Minnesota) and much loneliness on my part. With Scott’s death, and Felicia’s moving to Arkansas (and even before that, when they lived in Iowa), my birthdays have really been intensely lonely, solitary affairs.
The cake is indeed a lie. But the world still turns and revolves, and the solar system hurtles through the galaxy, and the galaxy through the local group.
Life goes on.