I’m heading into a new decade and saying goodbye to my twenties this month. Of course, this birthday marks another “first” since Dan died. I wish he were here to spoil me and tease me about how I’m “catching up” to him in age and how I’m the cutest thirty year old around. Even though our ideas of a perfect celebration were different, Dan could put together a balance of “him” and “me” to create something special. Our differences joined us.
Dan knew me. He knew my quirks and delicately teased me about them. One of my so-called quirks is my dislike for surprises. He was the definition of a hopeless romantic and surprises were essential to his plans for sweeping me off my feet. But when it came to special occasions, Dan knew that my idea of romantic was something small, something intimate, with little surprises shared between the two of us. Unfortunately for me, he also loved to be showy. So he compromised. That’s why he proposed to me on the ground before soaring away in a hot air balloon where the proposal would have been less intimate, considering the tight quarters we shared with the pilot. Dan was a propose-on-a-Kiss-cam kind of guy, but he knew me. He knew I’m not a Kiss cam kind of girl. He knew me better than anyone.
Dan was four years older than me so it seems like a lifetime ago we celebrated his thirtieth. It was 2010, we were newlyweds, Dan was healthy, in remission, and life was good. We had a party with friends, cake and presents, topped off with an “I’m 30 today” flashing pin. Friends gathered at our favorite watering hole and we sang karaoke until closing time. After that, I really had the ammo I needed to tease him about his old age. In turn, he began to tease me back about the very large, elaborate, and over-the-top surprise thirtieth birthday party he’d throw for me. It was a three-year running joke between us. Every now and then he’d mention how he’d just booked the venue, chosen the menu, or finalized the invite list. It was a joke because he knew that an elaborate surprise party is a far cry from a perfect birthday for me. It was a difference in our personalities, but it was the source of fun, flirtatious banter.
Dan loved surprises, I hate them. Dan thrived in crowds, I shy away from them. Dan liked being the center of attention, I like to blend in. We were different, but it worked. We respected and considered each other’s differences. I know Dan would never have thrown me a surprise party. He knew me. This year, as I turn thirty, I desperately wish Dan were here to celebrate. I would give anything to sing “Time of my Life” at karaoke with him, reminiscent of his own transition to his fourth decade. I don’t know what he really had in store, but I know it would have been perfect. It would have been exactly what I wanted, the perfect combination of my favorite things along with little surprises to satisfy his personality. It would’ve reminded me why he’s my perfect mate.
This birthday certainly won’t be the same. It will obviously bring with it a sense of loneliness and heartache. But, when I bring out that infamous ALL will be well mojo, I can look at it as an improvement from the previous two birthdays – 1) my twenty-eighth at Dan’s bedside just twelve days after his transplant and 2) my twenty-ninth searching for the best acupuncture office to alleviate Dan’s debilitating nerve pain. In a tiny (maybe even microscopic) way, this birthday is hopeful – hopeful that the next decade will bring more love, joy, and happiness.
As I turn thirty, I’ll remember Dan and dream about his plan. I’ll celebrate with my family and friends and smile about how Dan would be looking at me, grabbing my hand, and stealing kisses from his “old” wife who is quickly catching up to him.
November 11, 2011 To my wife and my soul mate: I can’t begin to tell you how blessed I am to be able to spend my life with you. This year has been too tough at times but the thing I never stopped smiling about was knowing every day starts and ends with us together. You are so beautiful, so kind, so caring, and so warm. I learn something about life and love from you every single day. Happy birthday, babe, you deserve everything, and everything is what I intend to spend a lifetime giving you. Can’t wait to share all of our birthdays together. I love you with everything, for always. xoxo times a zillion. Danny