I wish I were writing to tell you I’m taking the day off to do something fun for my birthday, but I’m not.
Today I am completing Chapter 3 of How to Get Divorced Without Losing Your Kids, Your Money and Your Mind: a Holistic and Practical Guide to Marital Dissolution and Family Reorganization.
But wait! There’s more! Please continue reading and don’t make me cry when I review my click rates tonight because the least you can do on my birthday is read the rest.
I woke up this morning in a decided funk. It doesn’t help that I’m sick. I’ve been sick since last week and can’t seem to shake it off, and with this illness comes my little Black Dog to play. I urge him to heel, and today he’s behaving better but refuses to move along to another mistress.
Making matters worse, Archie has taught my Black Dog how to use the electric wine opener and the best place for hiding a shit in the house.
My Black Dog brings with him memories of my Great Aunt Betty Beard, who I was supposed to visit in the hospital Monday or Tuesday but my illness kept me at home and in bed. I was scheduled to visit her at 2 p.m. today, but she was inconsiderate enough to die last night before I could say farewell.
The nerve of some people, am I right?
Betty was the sister to my grandfather Bayard DesCamp, but that’s not what made her Great Aunt Betty. She really was great.
Smiling, effusive, positive, hip, hilarious, brilliant and beautiful: this is a short list of words most would use to describe Betty. Betty was my favorite relative (sorry, everyone else).
I loved Betty so much that I haven’t seen her in years and my husband and son do not know her, and now never will.
I loved Betty so much that I couldn’t drag my ass out of my sickbed to say goodbye to her, even though I knew she was not leaving that hospital alive.
Ah, but you can be damn sure I loved Betty enough to be at her funeral. Unless something else comes up, of course.
What am I saying? What do these words even mean?
Why am I despondent on my birthday and feeling old and tired and sad and why is this fucking Black Dog barking at me, begging for a walk? If I walk him, he’ll stay. I know he’ll stay if I indulge him – so I cannot.
I scream and cry at him and he won’t go away, but he promised that tomorrow, maybe Friday, he’ll move along to the next house down the way.
I hate those neighbors.
What is Wrong With Me?
Today I’m thinking about a friend who lost a child, my cousins who lost a mom, a man whose wife suddenly left him, and a schoolmate of Jake’s who watched his father murder his mother and I’m thinking:
What the fuck do I have to be upset about?
Fear of failure/Fear of success
Fear of abandonment/Fear of love
Fear of embarrassment/Fear of Triumph
All of the above.
None of the above.
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why Robin should not be allowed to use the typing machine when she is sick and her Black Dog has come to play.
I dispense advice and it’s usually pretty damn good but today I’ll address everyone instead of a letter-writer:
If there are people in your life who you love but haven’t seen for a while, reach out. Go through your emotional Rolodex (kids: your “contacts” folder on your iPhone) and ask yourself whose death would fill you not only with sadness but with deep regret that you both let that relationship slip away.
Be the one to reignite the friendship.
Lastly, I’ll leave you with a poem I wrote a few years ago about aging and death, inspired by a fallen cedar tree in the woods behind my home.
I wrote this when I was 40: before my memory started to trouble me, before my hair went gray, before my knees began to fight against my daily run and urge me to walk instead.
In other words, before I knew a damn thing about anything at all.
Thuja Plicata/Arbor Vitae
Making my way through forest park
Snow falling all around me as I take the silent trek with the blonde beauty
My tracks are first which seems satisfying somehow.
A month ago you fell and I’ve walked past you several times since then
But today, thoughts of Botox and birthday filled my head
Silly woman clinging to the youth she never squandered.
Was it a terrific gust that brought you down in that December storm
Or was it the collective efforts of the rain and wind over so many decades
And does it matter what finally brought you weeping to the forest floor?
Days after you gave way to the forces you could not match
They came with screaming chain saws and cut you in two,
Your magnificent corpse impeding the progress of hikers.
Cracked wide and yawning open
Your belly red and teeming with mushrooms and insects
In your death you continue to give life.