Celebrations aren’t the same since Peter died. They take on an almost eerie quality. I go through the motions, yet I know, he’s missing. I know the celebration is not as full. I know an emptiness exists even with the fullest of laughter. I know he is not part of them anymore, nor ever will be.
Today, a few days early, my kids and I will celebrate my birthday. It will be the start to the time of the year I used to be excited about, the beginning of the months that lie ahead, the months which ignited a giddiness in me. After my birthday is (was?) my wedding anniversary, then, Thanksgiving and finally, Christmas. And no, I didn’t accidently leave out Halloween. I purposely did. I don’t get Halloween. I am the Halloween Scrooge, the Halloween Grinch before he grew his heart.
Today, a celebratory dinner will be followed by board games. A perfectly joyous plan for my birthday – family and games. Only, I am already feeling a foreboding of how I will be, how I will act when it all comes around. I have a rock in my belly I can’t really name other than to say it’s heavy and extracts all my excitement away. Don’t tell me to buck up or to push past it. That’s not going to work. If it could be that easy, I would have already done it. And, yes, of course, I will continue to move without him, as I do every day of my life. I hope the rock crumbles into manageable pebbles before the festivities start. Although, I fear missing him will take up too many parts of me, and I miss him. I really miss him.
Peter was the best gift-giver I know, even trumping me which is saying something. He put thought into each and every thing he gave me. Christmas wasn’t his thing, so he put so much time and thought into my birthday. For my fifty-first birthday, he threw a surprise party for me. It was unexpected since my fiftieth came and went. To this party, he invited my friends I held through the decades, each decade of my life. The party was a mix of my past and present joined together and it has become one of the most precious memories to date. And, through the years, Peter showed me other thoughtfulness.
A few years back, he gave me a blue glass plate with four chicks on it. The plate was a nod to my blue glass collection, but what made it more special was he gave it to me on the year my son went to college as a reminder of my nest, full or otherwise. He excited me one year with a Patrick Sharp jersey, my pretend boyfriend for awhile. He surprised me with a Cubs’ game, three rows up from the field, and we took pictures by the dugout after the game. (This was when I was a huge Cubs fan. I have since jumped ship.) He swept me off to a Bruce Springsteen Imitator concert, holding off the reveal until we arrived. And we had a birthday toast on the top of the Eiffel Tower while we were there to celebrate our 25 year anniversary.
Not only did Peter have a knack for giving the perfect gift, he also would celebrated me. Starting with when I woke up, he made me feel special with a morning birthday kiss and sings of Happy Birthday. During the entire day, Peter would not allow me to do any chores, reminding me it was my birthday and I should relax. He made or ordered in fancy dinners, knowing exactly my favorites. And he would end my birthday with a special back rub or massage. Peter went out of his way to make sure I enjoyed the day.
After my birthday, the months of anticipation began and so did my excitement for them. Peter enjoyed seeing my enthusiasm, my over-the-top obnoxiousness with decorations, my planning of the Thanksgiving meal, my gleeful retelling of what gifts I was getting for the kids, my Holiday music blaring as I wrote cards or baked cookies, and my little protests – okay, tantrums – for control over the remote to watch my Holiday movies. I saw the little flashes of Peter’s enjoyment in the lift of his crooked smile, the glints in his stares, and the way he encouraged me, egged me on, teased me. Just as I loved him for so many of his qualities, he loved me for my excitement for this time of the year.
Last year, I drifted through these months in a fog. I only saw my feet as I willed them to move in the direction ahead. My birthday, our anniversary date, Thanksgiving and Christmas all frightened me. They scared me with thoughts of being the firsts without Peter. Honestly, I don’t remember the gifts I bought, the decorations I set out, the days as they past. Last year, I ran downtown for my birthday and anniversary, away from the home filled with so many celebratory memories. Last year, I made the worse apple pie in my Thanksgiving memories and I did give a rat’s ass. Last year, I put out very few Holiday trinkets, and I ached even seeing the very few. I was a mess of a person last year, just surviving and wishing it all went away.
This year, I hope for more. I hope to rekindle at least some of my spirit for the months that lie ahead. I hope to remember and revel in Peter’s caramelly laughter as he watched me from the sidelines while I played within the joyous months. This year, I want to look back at birthdays and holidays and grab some of that into my nows. This year, I will move in some of the spirit even with the rock in my belly. I want to start today. I do. I really do, but I know it will take effort.
Today, will mark the start of the part of the year I adore the most. Today, I will value each and every moment given to me by my family. Today, Peter’s spirit will be us, in the memories of him, and will float around us as they always do. Today, I will have a desperate longing for him, a wish for him to be a part of the celebration. Today, I know my wish won’t come true…no matter how many candles I blow out. Today, I will carry around the rock, but I will NOT let it stop me from celebrating with the greatest of Peter’s gifts, our children.