Today my dad told me I was conceived at a campground in Indian River, in a tent, underneath a nest of birds, in August. “I think that’s really nice,” he said. And while I can understand how it might be nice to him, I’m still a little grossed out, thinking of my parents having sex. I mean, I know I’m 30 now, but still. Yuck.
My paternal grandmother, my father and I were all born on the same day, even though I was supposed to be a May baby. I came quite early, interrupting the family celebration, upside down and pretty determined, apparently. I asked my dad this morning if this was his favorite day, since its the day I came into his world and he answered me seriously – Yes, absolutely.
I think this day is hard for my dad now, with his mother gone. Although no one in our nuclear family had a very good relationship with her, something I’ll blog about someday, perhaps, she still celebrated every year with him for over sixty years, and every year with me for 27. We gave each other gifts and agreed on the flavor of the cake and drank champagne, toasting the unbelievable coincidence…three birthdays on the same day, all first born children.
I’d like to say I miss my grandmother on my birthday but it’s not particularly true. She was the kind of woman who ladled out her love in soupcons, and she told me more than once while she loved me and my brother, she loved my cousins more. “There’s just something about your daughter’s children,” she said. “They are much more special.” She was that kind of grandma, and that kind of mother to my father – the mother who never wrote him one letter during his two tours of duty in Vietnam because “She just couldn’t bear to think of him there,” the mother who gave away all of his band medals to his little sister while he was away, so she could pin them to her own letterman’s jacket, to look like she had earned them (I should note, despite my grandmother’s preference for my aunt, my aunt is a lovely person, full of grace, whom I love completely, as does my dad. She has taken care of me time and time again and she’s the kind of person, well, you can feel her love).
This is the first year, happily, though – that I feel true forgiveness for her. Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love helped me with that, as did beginning to attend church. I feel an exceptional thankfulness to my grandmother, for giving me my dad, and, well, I don’t know…I feel kindness towards her, and compassion. She may not have known how to be a great mother or grandmother but to be fair, she came of age in a day where she didn’t have many other options to pursue. And I have heard stories about HER mother that make me cry, on her behalf.
I am rather adamant about my birthday. I make sure people know it’s coming and I celebrate it as much as possible. One reason for this is because I believe in celebrating, in the importance of marking the time we spend here and finding joy wherever we can. I have always loved my birthday. But another reason, a dark and inherently unfair reason to those I love, is that someday this day will come and my dad will not be with me to celebrate and I cannot imagine my birthday without my dad. We turn older every year together and I have never had to walk into a new year alone – he has always held my hand and moved forward with me. This is a bit of an unfair burden I put on S. and my dad and my mom and my friends….that our birthdays be celebrated in style, fabulously well, but at the same time when my birthday rolls around and it is mine alone, I want to be comforted with dozens of years of cakes and cocktails and celebrations, of asking my dad if this was his favorite day and hearing I was his favorite birthday present. I love him to the point of tears, and I insist upon commemorating that, for as long as we can.
And now, for my dad’s 64th birthday, his favorite poem:
THE LAKE ISLE OF INNISFREE
By William Butler Yeats
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a-glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear the water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.