Happy 50th, Sean
|Sean in St. Lucia, West Indies, June, 2003|
Today would’ve been my late husband’s 50th birthday (I can’t believe I’m writing “late” in reference to Sean, because he hated being late). At least, it would’ve been his birthday today in New Zealand. We’re nearly a full day ahead of the United States. This is fitting, because the kids and I are moving ahead in so many ways. Ways Sean would be proud of.
En route to school today, I reminded Fiona and Finley (ages 7 and 5) that today was Daddy’s birthday. “That was fast,” said Fiona. “I wish my birthdays would come that fast!” (Just wait, kid. Your turn will come, when birthdays arrive so quickly they make your head spin). Fiona said, “Can we buy Daddy a cake? We can let the wind blow out the candles, like it’s his spirit.” Good idea, honey. Finley said, “Can you turn up the radio? I love this song!” I turned up the radio.
I dropped the kids at school and took The Boyfriend, Pete, to breakfast at a café in downtown Mount Maunganui. I’d bought one of those half-price Internet coupons that are very popular at the moment, and it had been burning a hole in my wallet for a couple weeks. I told Pete it would’ve been Sean’s birthday and I was planning to pick up cupcakes for the occasion. “I think I have something that would work,” said Pete. He later pulled from his fridge a gorgeous, chocolate-iced banana/pear cake he’d made by sheer coincidence to give the kids and me.
The sun shone, the temperature climbed to the comfortable mid-60’s (18 degrees Celsius), even though, technically, it’s winter. I didn’t have grand plans for today. Several people have asked if this would be or has been a tough day. It hasn’t. I wondered, too, if I’d be sad. As a young widow friend who’s also found new love wrote, “Eventually we have to let go of the past and it is easier when we know there is something or someone to hold us into the present and point the direction to the future.”
I enjoyed holding today’s “present.” A sprained ankle forced me to forgo my usual Tuesday morning run with the Mount Joggers. Instead, I spent most of the day with Pete, writing, surfing the ‘Net, sharing pictures (he, of his mum’s house, me, of my house in Spokane). The day was unscripted, unplanned and unremarkable, except for the fact that it was unremarkable.
|Amy added writing to Pete's cake|
The kids and I ate the chocolate-iced banana/pear cake with our flatmates, Amy and Blythe. Amy whipped out her cake decorating supplies and wrote, “Happy birthday Sean,” on top. We lighted candles, sang “Happy Birthday,” and brought the cake outside in hopes the wind (representing Sean’s spirit) would snuff the flames. One candle went out. The kids puffed out the rest. The cake was delicious - its moist banana and pear flavors sat happily beneath the chocolate icing, which the kids licked clean before devouring the cake. I asked Fiona and Finley what they’d give Daddy if he were here. “I’d give him wine,” said Fiona, looking about 12 years old in dress-up clothing, lipstick and new, adult-sized teeth. “Daddy liked beer better,” I told her. “Oh, I’d give him beer, then,” said Fiona. Finley said, “I’d give him a ball so he could play with me.”
|Blythe, Finley and Fiona blow out the candles|
Somewhere, I like to imagine Sean smiling, kicking a soccer ball, throwing back a Guinness. The kids and I can be sad another day. Today, I raise a virtual glass to a man who loved his family, his work and his community. In Sean’s honor, hug your kids a little tighter, kiss your significant other, if you have one, (drink a Guinness, if you're so inclined) and be thankful for whatever good thing happened today.