Under the Bus


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Late in the day yesterday I flipped through my calendar of events for the upcoming week and realized that today was Will’s birthday.

Not “is”.

The dead don’t have birthdays and I have struggled to incorporate his deadness into the scheme of holidays and birthdays for the last five years.

Last night I decided to throw it all under the bus.

For some reason I will never know probably, Dee decided that her late father needed a cake last year. Her older sisters’ deceased mother gets cake and picnics, and she was feeling decidedly left out of the frivolity. Which is how she views it. Fun times. Cake and picnics are jolly events to a child. Buying balloons and pin-wheels to put on graves is the whole point of having dead family in the first place. Because she’s a child.

When I was a child, I thought cemeteries were part of the family history experience. I totally looked forward to Memorial Weekend, bouncing in the back seat of the station wagon as we tooled through the countryside from one graveyard to the next. It was fascinating and filled with interesting stories about people my parents and grandmother actually knew. The whole “dead” thing barely penetrated my consciousness.

“I just remembered that tomorrow is Will’s birthday,” I told Rob as we sat in the office last night.

“I know, ” he said with a tone and look that implied that he had been waiting to see whether I’d bring it up or not. Not is usually my go-to because I forget. The anniversary of my dad’s death was just before Halloween and if my mom hadn’t mentioned her plans for the day to me a few days before – I wouldn’t have remembered at all.

“Dee hasn’t brought it up, ” I said, “and I am kinda thinking of letting the whole thing pass, but what if she asks in a week or so? Should I pretend I forgot? I mean, I almost did, but she isn’t all that interested in him again.  Shouldn’t I just follow her lead?

“She had said that the whole thing makes her too sad, ” he said. “She doesn’t want to talk about him.  She changes the subject when his name comes up.”

“Or just gives you that look that says ‘what does he have to do with anything?’,” I replied.

And really, what does he have to do with anything?

She didn’t know him. That he was her father, doesn’t make him any more known or immediate to her. It doesn’t give him standing or influence. She’s decided that Rob is her father and it’s her right to do so.

And I remember Will telling me about his childhood. His dad died when he was seven and his mother never let him forget the guy.

“She was always telling me how I reminded her of him,” he told me. “I hated it.”

With good reason. His dad was a rat, fucking bastard.  Alcoholic.  Child and wife beater. Adulterer.

Seriously, why rub your little boy’s face in any resemblances?

He would be okay with Dee putting him into proper perspective in the scheme of her life. Because it is her life.

Someday, she will want to know Will – or at least have more spontaneous interest, but for now, birthdays for the (un)dead are over.

That is all.

3 thoughts on “Under the Bus

  1. I think that if that makes you and your family happy, then that is your wishes and it shouldn’t matter what others think….

    Over here, the children didn’t know their father too well neither, however, we do go visit his grave on his birthday. We don’t celebrate it as “he would have been this old today” as most birthdays are celebrated though… but I also find nothing wrong with celebrating the DAY of their father’s birth. It should be a day to remember in my opinion because if hadn’t been born, then they wouldn’t be here neither. They are taught to celebrate various births in their childhood (Christopher Columbus, Jesus Christ, etc…. you get the point) so why not teach them that the day of their father’s birth is a day to pause and be thankful for? After all, their father was not a bad man. He was a good person, a simple person, a hard working person. Celebrating the day he came to be is, again in my own opinion, a good way for them to recognize their heritage and where they came from.

    On the flip side, there is no BIG celebration… we simply each take a small gift of love to his grave site (the little’s usually all draw pictures and I take a card). We never stay long because sitting and grieving over a stone has never been my idea of a good remembrance of an individual. We go, we say our piece, and we leave. Respect and celebration given to the person who gave them life. End of story. 🙂

    1. I think we make too much of comings and goings. They were just two days in a life. Dee isn’t interested in knowing him right now. She might never be more than mildly curious. My pushing it will not alter that.

      I think we sometimes mistake our children’s mirroring of us as their emotions. When I read people lamenting how their kids shut down conversations and they fear the outcome, perhaps it is just a child trying to control the parent’s fixation.

      I only know what Will told me. That he felt smothered under the memory of his father and that he wished his mom could have let it go or kept it to herself. This would be okay with him.

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