A child’s birthday. This is generally a simple thing in a person’s life. Every year your children grow and get older and you celebrate their birthday. But nothing is simple in this complicated, abnormal, tear stained life of ours.
In two days, on January 17, my youngest daughter will be having a birthday. We are excitedly planning her party which will happen this coming weekend. We love birthdays. We love them even more than any other holiday because it’s the day we met each other. It is the first day we ever laid eyes on one another. They are special. Every child has an original, all their own… birth story. So we celebrate! From the outside looking in, I….we….look just as normal as can be. I am a crafty…okay…kinda crafty…Mom….so I have been hard at work making all sorts of goodies and decorations for my youngest daughter’s birthday party….Carly is having a Harry Potter party. Oh how she LOVES Harry Potter! (Don’t tell her I told you but she kisses her Harry Potter pillow case good night every night!!) We have been filling out invitations…planning the menu…and of course, shopping! She wanted to invite so many people we had to limit her to just the girls….and we are still expecting 20 or so five and six year old children! (What is wrong with me?)
And, just like it has been since February 19, 2014…. there is a sadness woven into this most joyous of occasions. There is an absence we cannot ignore. A voice missing from the chorus of voices singing Happy Birthday….a voice that would gleefully drown out all the others because Maddi loved her sister’s birthday almost as much as she loved her own. There will be a card with Maddi’s name on it….and a gift….Maddi’s name will not be inscribed in her hand writing….but mine. The gift will be picked out….hoping it’s something Maddi would have picked. We feel that last birthday of Carly’s with Maddi…her third birthday….we feel it’s presence heavily as we never really got to celebrate Carly that year….Maddi and I had been planning her party…but we were struggling with money…as always…and had to wait until we got our tax return in…so we happily planned…Maddi loved planning just like Carly and I do…and the party was supposed to be February 22nd. But it never happened. We were, instead, planning our oldest daughter’s funeral that day…writing a fucking obituary….instead of holding a 3 year old’s birthday party. The supplies sit in a tote downstairs…they are too painful to touch…to look at. A tote of what should have been.
But unlike every birthday since that year….there is something different hanging in the air. Each time I discuss Carly’s birthday with anyone…. the words dangle in front of us…. words too difficult to be spoken. Words so difficult to comprehend that the mere speaking of them draws the very air we breath from around us…..the mere speaking of them turns our stomachs….causes tears to swim in our eyes. THIS birthday is the one in particular I have been dreading. How can that be? How can I dread my little girl’s birthday? Let me be clear…before moving on… I do so look forward to Carly’s birthday….I do feel excitement and pride and joy…. I do revel in these moments with her…watching her grow up….Do not mistake my suffering for an absence of love for my little one. Just as it is so often for grieving parents….there is not an absence of joy but an inexplicable mingling of the two emotions….joy and despair.
What is different this year….what magnifies my sadness….my longing ….her absence….is this fact….
In two days, on January 17, my youngest daughter will be as old as my oldest daughter. This seems non-logical. And it is. I was there. They were not born on the same day. Or even in the same year. Maddi was born on June 23, 2006 and Carly was born 4 1/2 years later on January 17, 2011. But yet…here we are. Carly will be seven in two day’s time. And Maddi is also seven. And that hurts in a way that I cannot even understand myself. Maddi should be our 11 1/2 year old daughter….but instead….she is seven. And so is Carly. It’s like a cruel joke in which the punchline is our life. The last rendition of “Happy Birthday” I ever sung to my Maddi was for her seventh birthday. The last number shaped candle that I ever placed on a cake for my Maddi was shaped like the number seven. I have bought her number eight, nine, ten and eleven….but they are placed at a fucking gravestone instead of on a cake. So it’s not really the same.
Now Carly will have spent more time on this Earth without her sister then she was ever afforded with her. Now…on September 15th or so…Carly will grow older than Maddi ever did. And I am so happy to watch her grow….but I am also so fucking sad. This is not how it is supposed to go.