Six. Sixteen. Seventy-Five. Ingrained in my head forever. Sometimes, I mistakenly reply with this as if it is my own. It was Steve’s identity the past 3.5 years. Many times uttered by me, as fatigue or illness prohibited his interaction. It was his ticket to treatment, doctor visits, prescriptions, surgeries, everything. It became my identity as well. I still now habitually use it at my doctor’s appointments, even though it makes no sense.
I used to despise birthdays, well at least my own. This year I was happy to turn a year older. To be healthy. To be loved. To have amazing people in my life. This year I handled my birthday fine. Amazing friends, amazing people, all made it easy and fun and special. I am a very lucky girl. Yes, very lucky.
But once again it is bittersweet, as birthdays were our week. We shared the week sometimes fighting over when the transition would be from his to mine. I was always robbed, as his was six days after mine, one day short of a full birthday week. Every year we’d manage to do something for “our” birthdays. However, Steve always out celebrated his.
There was the time Steve had a race car party. It was Steve, about 12 of our close friends and fifty 12 year olds. I made him a go-cart racing suit and he sported that thing like no other. He ate pizza, raced go-carts and had cake. He was in heaven.
Or the other time when he had a paintball party. Yet again, Steve, 20 close friends and fifty 15 year olds (That could be misconstrued).
He was definitely one to celebrate. Up for a group of friends having fun and truly appreciating life. Even last year, he was day +4 from his allo transplant, in the hospital and he celebrated with a new playstation game and a monitor that I bought at Best Buy (He always had the perfect hospital set up. We were so proud of all the comforts we arranged.)
Steve’s past four birthday all revolved around treatment of some form or another. Year one was spent as a weekend of sleep from chemo recovery. Year two chemo again, after relapse. Year three, more chemo, after relapse. Year four, in Maryland, playing video games in a hospital room. He always had a truthful sense of the pain and plain fed upness (I know it’s not a word). But, he also maintained an incredible sense of humor and happiness to be alive. Birthdays really meant something to him. They meant that he was still here, beating the odds. They meant he was still living, earning a Masters Degree and working whenever he could. They meant that he was getting closer to living a full life; becoming an old man. Something he treasured. Something everyone should know.
Simultaneously, he had the utmost respect that this week in June was was also my six days. Even though he was sick, he still consistently wrote me a beautiful note or card expressing his gratitude and appreciation. He did more than he could to recognize. I miss those words so very much.
I thought today would be relatively easy compared to all that has happened. It is not. It fuckin’ sucks. It’s probably one of the worst days so far. I am appreciative of all the good and all the great in my life, but I know it’s ok to feel this as well. It’s part of life. It’s part of the process.
It popped up on our joint calendar today as “Tomorrow, My BDAY!” (See, he had no shame)
There are a lot of tears this weekend. I miss him so very much. I miss that support, that love, that drive to live and respect life. That humor. That humor is like no other, irreplaceable.
To be so lucky.