I have been in a mood lately, as the saying goes, and it is all because of my birthday. It isn’t because I am turning 40, it’s because I hate my birthday. I didn’t always. And then I turned 30. Again, it wasn’t the age, it was because I was an asshole.
My 30th birthday is the last one I spent with my dad. He died less than a month later. I lived at home then, about to get married. That birthday, I was leaving a little late for work but he had presents for me and wanted me to open them. So I did and then bitched at him for making me late. Classy! Of course, I didn’t know he was going to die. He was admitted to the hospital 5 days after my birthday after going to the doctor for some general malaise and a for a long overdue check-up.
My wedding was 16 days after my 30th birthday. Dad was still in the hospital, still in the ICU on my wedding day. Things had degraded. He had degraded. The admitting diagnosis of CHF quickly turned to medically induced sedation and soon to be some sort of necrotic bowel obstruction that led turn to a hail mary surgery attempt on the day before he died, finally, of sepsis.
I had to stand sobbing in the middle of Robinson’s May and tell the wedding DJ that there would be no father-daughter dance. There was still hope then, though. The day after the wedding he came out of sedation and saw his mother, sister and my mother. I missed it. My lengthy 3 day honeymoon conflicted. He slipped back under the day before I got back. The day before I got back to work too. Have I mentioned that I worked at the hospital where he lay dying? That I worked with him? That they asked me to take over parts of his job after he died? But that was still to come.
Every day I went to see him and couldn’t walk in the room. Every day I hoped with all my heart that he would wake up and I could apologize for being an asshole. But he never did. He took a sudden turn and my sister had to fly back out (she made it in time!) and he died. I never spoke to him again.
Now. I realize I could have apologized during those 5 days between my birthday and his hospital admission and I probably did offer a halfhearted “sorry I snapped at you”, but I was very self-involved that weekend. Birthday! Wedding! Me! Me! Me! I thought I had time. Well. That isn’t actually true. I simply didn’t think an apology was that important.
So yay. happy birthday fun times. I can’t believe that was 10 years ago. It seems so long ago and still so fresh at the same time. So, take my one piece of advice as a lesson learned: don’t be an asshole to your dad on your birthday. You might never get to apologize.
End Note: I wrote this last week, thought of father’s day and thought it best not to post it. It’s a week that gets crowded with dads, both living and dead; I didn’t want to add to the cacophony. I thought maybe just writing it was catharsis enough. So, I jumped on the change your facebook profile to a photo of your dad bandwagon and moved on. BUT THEN a person from my past I was barely aware of being facebook friends with sent me a message saying she was appalled that I would chose such a disrespectful photo of my father and why couldn’t I be more like the girls posting nice photos of their dads walking them down the aisle. Well, that isn’t really an option. Besides this above photo IS my dad personified. That is what I think of when I think of my dad, for better or for worse. He may have always had a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other, but he always, always had love in his heart and a twinkle in his eye.