Usually, for my birthday, my family will pack a picnic and go out out into the cool woods somewhere by my mom’s favorite lake, munching on cold chicken and salad and going for walks around the lake (well, maybe some of us some of the time, while others choose to remain behind and veg out by the picnic table…)
This year, I went to the condo where my father was lying propped up on an armchair with his pillows and his footrest and his oxygen hose.
“You’re here,” he said when I arrived. “My child.”
“Your fifty-year-old child,” I scoffed.
“I’m proud of your fifty,” he said. “As I was proud of your two, and your ten, and your twenty one…”
But lucid was a gift, and it came and went. At one time he tried very hard to figure out the time between my birthday and his, and kept on talking about “Six weeks”, when his birthday is in the third week of October. And when i said it was much longer than those six weeks he wanted it to be, he looked at me and said, “well, all right, if you say so…”
He had a piece of birthday cake. He knew I was there, he knew how old I was turning. He could still share this birthday with me, the last birthday, the last birthday that I will ever share with a living father.
it was hard. So hard.
I held his hand. He smiled. And then he slept.
I hope he dreamed of those other birthdays. When I was two, and ten, and twenty one.
And that he was still proud.