This weekend my dad celebrates his 75th birthday by throwing himself a party. There was beer and wine and BBQ. He invited his friends and family– some came from Atlanta and DC. And even my mom was invited- and they’ve been divorced since 1988!
It was a damn fine birthday party.
But it was also a going away party- although we didn’t really talk about that.
Dad’s cancer is basically terminal at this point. He’s on chemo, but we aren’t sure how much more time he’ll have. But certainly not another birthday. Or maybe even Christmas.
One of the things dad did before the party was to set out all his Christmas stuff (Christmas in July, you know) and asked that the guests take anything they might fancy. And if they thought of him when they put it up at Christmas, well, that would be nice.
There was also a memory book, where my dad’s girlfriend asked people to jot down a favorite memory or two of my father.
I think the memory book is more for me– for later. But we didn’t talk about that either.
Mostly the atmosphere was pretty upbeat and jovial– there were only momentary lapses into tears. Like when my ex step brother and my cousin Tony’s wife were in the den at “the book” and Dawn (the wife) was basically sobbing because she didn’t want to write in the goddamn fucking book.
For her, writing a memory was acknowledgment that it was really happening. And that made her indescribably sad.
I managed to be fairly stoic until the party guests started singing “Happy Birthday”.
I’m glad I wasn’t in the room because I couldn’t sing. Dawn was there and we hugged and rode out the song.
I had good talks with relatives. Chatted with JJ (my ex step brother). My mom had a good time and my parents were so nice to each other.
It was like stepping into bizarro world.
The best part was that everyone who was supposed to be there- was there. And everyone, either tacitly or verbally, offered help in some form or other. Some continue to help my father daily. Some will help when the time comes. And some told me to call them anytime, anywhere.
And what did Mr Rogers say to do in times of crisis?
Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.