Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Some Day, Late July

7/29/00: Mr. ABF and I, after almost 13 years of "dating," get married, in the meadow on my aunt's farm, ceremony began at 5:30 p.m.

7/29/04: Bella is born, coincidentally, shortly after 5:30 p.m.

7/29/06: We are homeless -- our house closed on Friday, 7/28, and we don't move into our new house until Monday, 7/31. On 7/29, we celebrate Bella's birthday with family at my aunt's farm. As part of the celebration, we announce our pregnancy.

7/29/07: We are without one of our children now, in our new home. I loathe to celebrate one child's birthday because it reminds me so painfully of the one I cannot celebrate at all. I can't bear to have a party at my aunt's, surrounded by the ghosts of last year, and so we have it at our house, surrounded by neighbors. That night, in lieu of sitting alone and crying into a glass of something, I invite 30 neighbors over to celebrate our anniversary with us. The crowd, cake, and champagne blur the memories considerably.

7/29/08: Bella turns four; Mr. ABF and I celebrate eight years of marriage and, well, everything else, together.


On one of the first days of "Statistics (for Poets)," a required course en route to my PhD, the professor (who I adored) walked us through the "Birthday Problem" using our class -- about 100 people if not more. Of course we were all stunned that two people in the class did indeed have the same birthday, even though he had just explained (moments earlier) the probability of that occurrence was, according to the formula, fairly high.

The odds that Bella's birthday would fall on our anniversary, according to the formula, are a bit more slim. I suppose if we bump up the variable on birthdays to include not only those (2, ours) but anniversaries (1) to 3, than it creeps up a notch. But in the end, as we all well know about probability, it happened, so the formula is rather moot. And as the stats guy sez, "the sum of the probability that an event will happen and the probability that the event won't happen is always 1. (In other words, the chance that anything might or might not happen is always 100%.)" Ain't that the truth.

I have had numerous occasions to think of this parlor trick over the past year and a half as days have become increasingly significant to me. And I guess if we -- all of us here in this corner of blogland -- were to plug all of our respective important dates into the formula, the probability that there would be an overlap is high. Only 365 days, a whole smattering of us, and a plethora of important dates. Somewhere, someones' important days would collide.

But knowing this didn't prepare me. Earlier this year, someone pointed me toward Janis. And one night I sat and read and cried through her archives. And discovered, on a sharp intake of breath, that Ferdinand's birthday is also July 29.

Dates on the calendar are just meaningless jibberish to me that I use to ink up the occasional paper check I still write, unless they're dates. Dates of significance. I was never much of a Christmas person, or a birthday person for that matter, so having a child on some high, holy occasion like that never gave me the willies. But two days in advance of our fourth anniversary, a week before my due date, suddenly feeling what seemed to my untrained eye and body a gush of water from my nether-regions, I knew my child would become the center of my attention from second one by usurping my one cheerful holiday that I could persumably count on for a small gift or at the very least, a good dinner out. No more.

Now, these birthaversaries are a jumble of frenetic planning amidst a undercurrent of sadness, remembering the daughter who lacks such attention, who lacks friends and goody bags and meaningless plastic crap from far-flung relatives. The anniversary which will always now stress the "for better or way worse than we ever imagined" part. The ghost of what could be.

And it comes to my attention, when I start to feel that glow inside -- not quite joy yet, but the inner smile that instinctively and surprisingly comes when I watch Bella propel herself around the block on her bike -- that days are like this: one person's joyous day is someone else's hell. One person's red-penned-heart around a number on the calendar is the day someone else would like to erase and go through comatose. The Norman-Rockwell-esque holiday, replete with dad carving the turkey in front of the snow-framed window for one person, is paralleled by someone else receiving the worst news of their lives. On days we remember the living, I now find it difficult not to remember the dead.

There would be a touch of joy and a touch of sadness today, without knowledge of Ferdinand. There will always be a ghost at our celebrations now, a missing person who should be staring in wonder at the cake, a child we don't get to leave at home with the babysitter. Our marriage will forever be marked by glorious adventures, a marvelous birth, and a trip through the inferno. As such, I will never forget the day Ferdinand was brought into this world, birthed by his mother while I undoubtedly sulked around a tray of cupcakes hoping I didn't look too depressed. I will never forget his birthday, because it is now woven into the magic of dates that guides my life: July 29.

Happy Birthday, Ferdinand.
Happy Birthday, Bella.
Happy Anniversary, us.

One day. One measly 24-hour day, a number. Packed with so very much of then, now, and never.


niobe said...

Happy Birthday, Ferdinand.
Happy Birthday, Bella.
Happy Anniversary, us.

I think you've said it all. Lovely post.

loribeth said...

Oh so true. Thank you for a moving post, & happy birthdays & happy anniversary!

JuliaS's Carena & my Katie were both both still on August 7, 1998. It's always comforting to me every year to know that someone else out there knows just how I am feeling that day.

My sister's birthday is Sept. 11th. After 2001, she said she wasn't having birthdays anymore. (Given that 2002 was her 40th, however, I'm more inclined to think it was her way of avoiding the aging issue, lol.)

Bon said...

sniff. happy birthday, Ferdinand and Bella, both of you thought of. happy anniversary, ABFs.

i loved this post.

and...yeh. statistics for poets sounds like my kind of course.

Aunt Becky said...

Thinking of all of you.

Alice said...

I wanted to type something profound about anniveraries .... but my mind is too foggy. So I'll just send you my love,


luna said...

beautiful post, powerful day. niobe said it -- you said it all already.

Julia said...

I've been thinking about the every day thing lately too. Even have a post brewing, I think. But yours is lovely, and right on. Thank you for this.

I have also been thinking about Janis the whole day today.

Happy birthday to the incredible biking girl, and happy anniversary to her incredible parents.

c. said...

I've got nothing profound or important to say, only that I am thinking of you, wishing you a Happy Anniversary and Bella a Happy Birthday, while I hold Janis and her little boy close to my heart. Beautiful post, Tash. XO.

Which Box said...

Thinking of you all today.

k@lakly said...

We are al more alike than we are different...I guess here in DBland the alikeness is just more pronounced and more significant, at least to us.
Thinking of all of you as you mark these moments, the good and the bad.

A.M.S. said...

There is little for me to say that hasn't been said already. Much love and wishes for enough happiness to balance out the sadness.

janis said...

How weird is it if I say I loved this post? Beautifully said, Tash.
I can't remember where I read it, but-- every moment is one of creation, and destruction, simultaneously.

Happy anniversary to you and Mr ABF, and Happy Birthday to Bella. So she knows that death is merciless, may she live with relentless joy. xo

MsPrufrock said...

Marvelous, moving post as per usual Tash.

Happy birthday Ferdinand and Bella, happy anniversary to you and your husband.

Sharon said...

I am a reader, not a commenter, until today. May this day regain some of its joy for you as time goes by.

I have a day like that, too. My husband and I first met on Christmas Eve in 1974. Five years later one of our twin daughters was stillborn when the girls arrived over five weeks early on Christmas Eve. Six years later we lost our dearest friend to a sudden heart attack on Christmas Eve. This holiday will always be a day of joy and sorrow for us. We are thankful that each year the joy gets a little brighter.

G said...

Beautifully said, Tash... Much love to you and the family and Janis today.

Can I have a goodie bag? I love plastic trinkets.

CLC said...

Happy Birthday Bella and Happy Anniversary to you and Mr. ABF. It's bizarre how our bad/good day can be someone else's good/bad day. I hope as the years go on that 7/29 is a little brighter.

STE said...

It's always interested me how important dates (and birth dates) cluster, especially among those I'm close to. Also, something you touched on, how one day can be full of joy for one person and the same could be full of pain.

Thinking of you today. Thank you for a beautiful post.

Kymberli said...

I explored a similar theme a few weeks ago, but not nearly as eloquently as you.

In this day of mixed feelings, I hope the joy outbalances the sorrow.

Antigone said...

Congratulations on 8+13

charmedgirl said...

thinking of you..

elizasmom said...

One person's red-penned-heart around a number on the calendar is the day someone else would like to erase and go through comatose.

Yes. I don't usually comment because I feel like an interloper; me and my minor tragedies stacked up against your unimaginable loss. But I read because in relaying the specifics of your loss, you often tap into universal truths about grief and love and loss that I recognize — like this comment I quoted above.

My father died on May 14, 1990 (a week after my 18th birthday, how's that for a bad birthday association) from complications following surgery to repair an aneurysm. He was an organ donor, and so we were able to donate his heart, lungs, kidneys, etc.

Months later, we received an anonymous thank you letter from the recipient of the heart. S/he tracked the emotions of, after months of illness and despair, learning that there might be a heart, to getting confirmation that there was one, to GETTING this heart.

To see the same hours that I had experienced as a progressive loss of hope through these eyes, to see them now as a rebirth — it isn't that I stopped grieving then, but I mark the reading of that letter and the shift in perspective it offered as the starting point of finding my way out of grief.

Tash said...

What an amazing convergence of events, elizasmom, thank you for sharing that.

kyouell said...

Never ever thought about someone else's calendar. Thank you for the perspective. Belated congrats to you, the Mr. and Bella.

Megan said...

What a lovely post. It seems like we try to make meaning by finding patterns in the places where the stories meet and paths cross.
I hope Tuesday was as happy an anniversary and birthday as it could have been.
I'm thinking of you today, even if a few days late.
Eighteen months ago today I was delivering my stillborn daughter. Today I hope a second attempt at induction will work and her sibling will be here safely with us.
And I hope that on August 23 – our fifth anniversary and the four anniversary of our buying our treasured house – will be a day we can celebrate forever and not add to the spider's web of sorrow.

Waiting Amy said...

While I'm late commenting, I was thinking of you on that day.

My grandfather died (in our home and my first real experience with death) on Valentine's Day. I'm a bit too cynical for that holiday anyway, but it still strikes me every year what an odd juxtaposition. Certain dates can be hard.

Searching said...

Just thinking about you.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Tash, just thinking about you since it's been a while since you posted. Hope you're ok.


Travelwahine said...

Funny thing, dates. My baby was born still May 23rd a day before our 5th wedding anniversary.