A Birthday Letter

It rains today. The sky is gray and the morning is quiet. The streets are wet and the blacktop on the street in front of my home is sort of glistening beneath the morning light. The white lines on the side of the road and the double-yellow lines down the center are a stretch down the country road where I live. Spring has sprung so the trees are exceptionally green where I live now, which is up in the mountains but not too far from the streets of New York City. I’m just over a bridge now and farther north. There is something peaceful about this morning. The grayness and the rain is fitting and comforting and yet, this is sad as well. Perhaps this is an acknowledgement of what this day means. Maybe Mother Earth knows. Maybe this is why she rains sometimes because she weeps too.

I am far from where I’d usually be on mornings like this. I know that times do and must change. My location has changed but not my connection to this day or to you or to the holiday, which comes this Sunday. This weekend is Mother’s Day weekend. Of course, had the times not changed, this meant I would be sending flowers or maybe a stuffed teddy bear and tickets for a plane trip.

I remember a morning at Deerfield Beach. I remember there was a heavy rainfall, which was fine with me. I didn’t mind at all. I was soaked and the sky refused to let up. However, the rain and I seemed to coexist. I was on the pier on the beach. I was looking out at the Atlantic. The sky opened up quickly and the raindrops feel hard and fast. In fact, I cannot say that I have ever seen a time when the raindrops were as big or as heavy. But like I said, we got along fine, the rain and me. 

I don’t know if foreshadowing in life is something we always take note of. I’m not sure why memories stand out or there is a hint that somehow, one day, a single memory will be worth more than diamonds. There were times when I saw the sky light up with fireworks. There were times that were ordinary and simple. And yet, there was something. There was an inkling. There was some kind of cosmic indication that suggested times like this are meant to be valued. There is something here. There is something to be celebrated. There is something comforting about this, and yet, there is something sad and fitting to say the least.

In the course of our lives, we will pass the people we love a thousand times. We will hear the voice of our family and loved ones. We will see them do things. We will notice things in their homes or in their bedrooms. For example, take The Old Man. I think about where he used to place his things when he came home after a day’s work.
As I say this, I can see a picture in my mind’s eye. I can see a nightshirt that he wore. I can see where it was in the corner of the bedroom, which is exactly where he left it before leaving for the hospital.

I can remember coming home after he passed. I remember seeing the shirt. And I remember the energy. I remember feeling this; as if The Old Man were there too. In some strange way, he was there. But yet, he wasn’t. I saw where he left his things, which I suppose this is where he usually left them. I suppose this time was much different because this time, there was more to notice. I say this because intellectually, I knew The Old Man was never coming back. Emotionally, I couldn’t believe this was true.

There was an afternoon in June. In fact this was the afternoon of the 10th in the year 2015. We had to gather up some things at the assisted-living home. There was a little phonebook left on a coffee table. There were notes inside. I can see the handwriting now. I can see the way the room was. I can see all of this in my mind. There were some clippings of papers, which I assumed were relevant for some reason. I saw where the daily things were, like slippers, some clothes, some snacks and so on.. I remember the bed, which was made but never used again. There was energy there. Intellectually, the adult in me understood what was happening. Emotionally, there was the realization that I will never be in this room again. I could feel the energy. There was life in the understanding of lifelessness. This was a feeling, which I felt before when The Old Man passed. Only, this time it was you.

I felt this the same way after The Old Man passed. I felt this when I saw where he left his shoes or his nightshirt. There was energy here. I knew it. I could feel it. The only thing is I couldn’t touch it. I couldn’t seem to communicate with it. All I knew was that life is eventual and inevitable. I knew that what you told me is true. Death is part of life. In the beginning it is written is what you used to tell me. We all have our time is what you said. The main idea is to make our time as valuable as possible. Don’t sweat the small stuff, you said. Make memories, you told me.
I agree.

I have memories like the times when we saw the sky, all colorful in the night with fireworks. You looked up so amazed. I remember. I think about this when I see the beaches or when I take walks and find a random butterfly that appears out of nowhere. Or, it could be a cardinal, or whatever. Either way, I know there is energy here. I know that even if this is not communication from you, this is me. This is my connection. This is my way of keeping you alive in my heart and with me when I need you.  

I can’t say that I was always a great son. I can’t say that we never argued or that we always saw things the same way. I know there were challenges on both sides. I also know that there is nothing so strong as a Mother’s love.
There is nothing as comforting as Mom’s mashed potatoes and chicken cutlets. No one could ever make cinnamon toast the way you could. I have a box of memories downstairs in my basement. I have old pictures. I have some postcards I sent you back when I was in sleepaway camp. I have memories, like the night in Disney when the fireworks lit up above The Magic Kingdom.

And for now, I have a tear in my eye. I have the streets outside my window, which are wet and quiet and once more, I have the rain to coincide with my sentiments.
There are so many things I wished you could have seen. There were so many times that I wish you were around to see what I have done. I wanted to call and tell you but the phones don’t reach where you live now. So, instead, I send these letters out to the universe.

And so you know, I’m proud of what I’ve done. But still, no matter what age a man becomes, we’re all just kids and every kid still needs their mom.
I know I do.
Besides, it’s not much fun to be put in the newspaper without being able to send the articles to you. It’s no fun for me if you can’t cut them out, and maybe place them on the fridge to say, “Look! That’s my son.”

I don’t know which way I’m going, Mom. I don’t know what will happen next. All I know is the one important lesson, which is that our memory of good things are more valuable than the arguments or troubled times. There is a quote from Kevin Arnold that reads, “Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.”

I remember, Mom. Especially today on your birthday.

Happy Birthday, Mom

Love always
Your son


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