Last Friday I did something I rarely do: I bought meat from the deli counter. And not just any deli meat, I chose lebanon bologna and liverwurst. If you’ve never heard of these things before you’re not alone, the man behind the counter didn’t even know that these meats existed.
My kids and I bought these because they were my Dad’s favorite and it was his birthday.
What do you do on the birthday of someone who has passed away? If you are me you eat their favorite foods, tell lots of stories about them, and then you cry. Much more often than you would like.
On Friday while my kids ate lebanon bologna sandwiches, I told them stories. I described to them how when I was a naughty five year old my Dad tried to spank me but ended up unable to administer any corporal punishment because I had wet my pants. He felt so guilty because I was that scared of him, and he never tried to spank me again.
My kids thought that was a hilarious story.
I told them about when their grandfather was in the Vietnam War walking through the jungle and heard a noise. He was convinced it was the enemy, but instead it was a few small puppies. He took those puppies back to camp and took care of them.
I gave them little pieces of liverwurst to taste and explained how I was the only other person in my family that liked it as much as my father when I was growing up. Sharing that small detail with my Dad always made me feel important, as if we had a special bond. After cautiously sampling a bite, my eight year old daughter signaled her approval and said, “It looks like I inherited my good taste from Papa.”
I smiled at her and then my heart broke just a little because my Dad would have really liked to have known that.
That’s what it’s like celebrating the birthday of someone who has died. You try to be thankful for the time you had together but mourn all the memories you’ll never get to make.