Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Put on a Happy Face (Part 1,439)

Yes, here we are once again...trying to put on a happy face. Tomorrow is my 40th birthday, and although I could care less about the fact of "40", the birthday itself is hard. Not the 40 part, just the birthday.

Four years ago I spent my birthday in the emergency room at MD Anderson, then in the outpatient surgery center, and as a celebration of the survival of a horrible night: Starbucks for a vanilla latte. A latte I felt guilty for drinking, as Daniel couldn't enjoy it - he was on a tube fed diet only at that point. I remember hardly noticing it was my birthday, and not really caring. We had bigger fish to fry at the time. A little more than two weeks later, the worst nightmare I could have possibly imagined came true, and the rest as they say is history.

I don't think my birthday will ever be the same. It is so burdened with memories and so much sadness in hindsight, I can hardly celebrate it. I put on a happy face, and some parts of the day it is real. Grayson always sings happy birthday to me at breakfast, and it is the most wonderful gift. It is a great start to a difficult day, and only a few people know how hard it is for me (until now I guess). My birthday falls smack in the middle of the march to the deathiversary, and it just hurts. Right now, while I am letting myself think about it, I can barely breathe. I find it hard to concentrate, I feel like I can barely function.

I keep expecting it to be easier, and in some ways I guess it is. The surprising thing each year is how intense the pain still is. How clear my vision and memories of that final time still are. How much like yesterday it seems. My god, he was just here. How can it be 4 years???? It can't be possible. And yet, here I am, 40, and Grayson, who was in kindergarten at the time is in the 4th grade. Apparently it IS possible.

The thing is, in general I feel okay - other times of the year. It's this time that I wonder at my sanity, wonder how much I have truly healed and wonder how on earth I'm supposed to make it to 80 without him. I don't want 40 more years without him. I DO want 40 more years with Grayson. I guess my future is in that balance. Somewhere squeezed between wishing my life away and wishing for a long and happy one for the little guy is where I'll find the space for me. Sometimes I feel like I've found it, other times, not so much. The month of October falls into the "not so much" category.

Overall, I am optimistic and hopeful in general. It's just this time of the year that I can't always muster it. Major parts of me want to curl up and cry at the smallest provocation. I still want my husband back. I know I always will. How do you move forward from that place? I've seen it happen, so again, it's possible. My heart is pieced together with duct tape and Elmer's glue. I don't know what a more permanent fix will look like. I can't imagine it. I can't feel it, and at this time of year, I don't even want it.

So the happy face comes out. I repeat Daniel's favorite saying and remind myself that if I'm not having a good time it's my own damned fault. I guess I can admit that I'm not having a good time. That must mean it's my own damned fault. Yes, clearly I'm a genius. At least I've got that going for me, and it isn't seasonal in nature... If I'm accountable for my own good time, then I will try to focus on that. I'm looking forward to having a great time in Vegas. Thanks to my wonderful friends and family who are willing to go with me, and hold my hand (or my hair, as the case may be).

Michelle D.


  1. Hi Michelle, Thanks for this very touching post. I'm so sorry for this difficult time for you, I hope you can feel some comfort from the love that surrounds you from your family and friends. Sending my thoughts and good wishes to you.

  2. Hi Michelle! Happy almost Birthday! I unfortunately share the worst thing in my life in common with you and everyone else that is on this site. My husband died 14 months ago from a stroke at the age of 51. We were married almost 18 years and have an 11 year old son.

    I have found many things I can relate to with you and of course every other individual on this site. I am particulary comforted knowing that October is a month that will pass. I am having very hard moments lately and am anxiously looking forward to them being gone. As one of the earlier entries mentioned, this roller coaster is frightning.

    Thank you for your writings. I look forward to more useful information from this site.

  3. Vegas is the best idea I've heard lately... I too share the 4 year mark in this wretched month.

  4. Michelle-

    I feel like I could have written your post in so many ways. My 39th birthday is next month. It will be the first one without my husband and the start of the season last year when he started to seem not quite right (he had a brain tumor but we didn't know until very late).

    It is so hard to believe that time really marches on and life keeps going. I so appreciate you sharing your honest feelings about your birthday. I hope you have a wonderful trip!


  5. Thank you for your post. Sadly, it seems there are so many of us who can relate. One thing that hit home with me was the fact that you can't imagine living 40 more years without your husband yet you do want 40 more years with your son and somewhere inbetween there is where you'll find space for yourself. So profound and so true for so many of us. Thank you again.

  6. So happy and sad to have struck a chord with all of you, I wish it didn't make sense to you! :( Thank you for the birthday wishes and the commiseration. Group hug!

  7. Big group hug! Happy Happy Joy Joy Michelle! Couldn't help but laugh at the "or my hair, as the case may be". Cheers to you, girl. You are amazing and I'm so happy I had the chance to meet you in San Diego. Sending you lots of happy thoughts!

  8. I think alot about this month. I remember visiting in the hospital and Daniel trying to order ME chocolate cake from the cafeteria and he was getting so mad that I couldn't understand what he was saying. And you know me, I cried, right there in front of him. I think about this month when we didn't yet know how was it going to end. I think about how much you guys mean to us. And cry some more. Somtimes out of sadness, sometimes over happy memories. Mostly, I just love you!

  9. Thinking of you on your birthday, Michelle - I hope you have fun in Vegas! (((BIG HUGS))) XOXO