Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Reviving The Birthday Spirit (Pt. 4)

I had a long walk home. I stepped on a sharp pebble, stubbed my big toe on an uneven piece of sidewalk and realized, in that very moment, that my Champion shorts were actually my Champion boxers.

I got home without being seen by anyone I knew. I remember wondering where she had gone, at first. My thoughts eventually shifted to the whole argument itself.

I understood her being upset. She was something to celebrate. But why on my birthday? For years, birthdays had been just days in my life. At home, birthdays were a visit to Grandma's for a cake.

But birthdays were also a privilege that could be taken away, a bargaining piece for an aunt who knew that the less joy in a life, the more precious the joy was. A simple act to remove it could coerce a lot, and coerce she did.

Foster care was no birthday destination, but I had observed my 16th there. Ny 17th was spent in juvenile hall under false charges that were later dismissed. The military ate my 18th and 19th birthdays. I had no real memory of either except having to stand a watch on both. One was in DEP, one aboard.

Others featured poverty, even homelessness on the 23rd birthday. My 22nd was spent on the road, wandering the highways fairly friendless, wondering how many more I might see before I found a place to be.

I took a long stroll down memory lane before I decided I had remembered enough of the bad

I decided that, despite my issues with progress and personal misgivings, I would try to sincerely celebrate with Marcie. I cleaned up the remains of breakfast and put away the dishes, noticing the late afternoon hour.

I showered and heard the door open and close, then latch. I did not call out and she did not come into the bathroom, so I dried off and tried to engineer a way to broach the subject, bridge the gap, heal the wound and move on.

I walked out to see her without a plan, having just dressed quickly as she unloaded things into the cabinets.

Honey?" I asked.

"What, Frank?" she asked. "Are you waiting for your meal."

"I am glad you are home," I said.

I closed the distance between us and let her try, half-hearted, to push my hands away until she stopped and turned into my chest and hugged me. The words came to me.

"I want to celebrate with you," I said.

"You do?" she asked, croaking, rasping. I still remember the hot tears soaking through my t-shirt where she pressed into my chest.

"I am so sorry," I said. "I was so stuck on the past that I didn't think of how much better my life is with you, because of you. I do want to celebrate, okay?"

She nodded and stroked my back as she whispered."I'm sorry I stormed out of here," she said. "But you looked cute following me down the street in your underwear."

The birthday was yet to come, and it would come with a very special gift and a little fuller discussion of the issues at hand.