Yesterday was my brother’s birthday and it was an important milestone; it was the first time we came together to celebrate a happy occasion since we lost my dad. While we had observed Mother’s Day, which took place a few days after my dad’s death, our mood was subdued then. We were all in pain and still reeling in too much grief to consider what we did that day a celebration of any sort. Yesterday was different, at least it was for me.
It’s difficult to describe the experience because I missed my dad a lot. He always loved spending our birthdays together, making it a point to schedule a meal where we could sit down and enjoy each other’s company. When we were younger, birthdays meant dinner out at a nice restaurant of our choosing. Dad wanted to make sure we all had a good time and that mom wouldn’t have to work too hard preparing a special meal for us, having done so much for us regularly. Birthdays were also a time for family photos. Other than our annual Christmas family picture, we always tried to take group photos at each of our birthdays. Birthdays were, and remain, important to us.
In recent years, we started celebrating festivities more frequently at home because between my brother, fiance, and sister we had two (home) cooks and a baker to take care of catering, so to speak. After all the cooking was done, my dad would always take these opportunities, with all of us gathered together to give us heartfelt advice, always prefaced with the statement “if you don’t like what I’m saying, I’m drunk!” even though he hadn’t had a sip to drink. Yesterday we returned to our childhood tradition and visited my brother and his girlfriend at a local restaurant in their city, once again alleviating the pressure from my mom who has had a lot on her plate recently. Things certainly felt different and we all missed him dearly – his absence left a clear void – but given the circumstances, things felt as they should.
Additionally, for the first time since this all began, I didn’t feel guilty for experiencing something other than sadness (or anger, as I wrote about on Friday). I thought about him, yes, but I didn’t feel that huge weight hanging in my heart that has recently been my new normal. I’m certain that my mood will change depending on the event and day but yesterday I felt nothing but love for the wonderful people that I have in my life, happiness for the time we were able to spend together, and gratitude that we were all able to navigate this difficult time as a unit. I’m proud of the man my brother has become and I know my dad’s pride surpassed all forms of language. If I can keep these feelings in my heart, allowing them to motivate me then I’ll do alright. Even this year when my dad had to spend his birthday in the hospital he was happy because for him, and now me, birthdays are about family and celebrating the things you’ve accomplished together.