Tomorrow is the fourth anniversary of your last birthday – #40. I have been thinking a lot about you leading up to your birthday, just like I have every year since 2009. In the past, I’ve scribbled some of these thoughts into a journal I use when I want to feel like I can talk to you, but I’ve decided that writing longhand sucks and also that some of the people both of us loved might like to see that your sweetie still gets sentimental for your birthday. It’s almost impossible to organize my thoughts, so stream of consciousness is the name of the game, but you’re a smart guy with eternity on your hands, at least when you aren’t busy battling evil in another dimension, so I’m pretty sure you can keep up.
I miss you. Every day. Sometimes I miss you like a wife misses a husband, and sometimes I miss you like I’d miss a best friend. Not surprising since you were both to me.
Every year, I have pizza for your birthday in honor of you. Usually a Jumbo Combo from Minsky’s. It’s not uncommon for friends to join me in this – both from the KC area and beyond. If they can’t get ahold of a good pizza, I’ve let them all know that a nice cheesyburger is also a good tribute.
My life is divided into three phases – Before, During, and After you. I can hardly remember Before – heck, I felt that way shortly after we started dating. My life Before was not all bad, but it lacked the sense of purpose that comes with finding the right partner. My life During our relationship was not all sunshine and rainbows, but I had the ever-present sense of knowing that someone had my back no matter what, and that I had their back too. People I’ve known in all three phases of my life have said I’m strong or independent, but I was never stronger than when I was with you, because I knew I had a soft place to land. The scariest thing, though, is that I’m starting to forget some of the During part. I know I have to delete some old stuff from memory to make room for all the great new things that are happening in my life, but I wish I could have more of a say in which memories fade away.
I’m really, really, really pissed off that you left me. I know you didn’t want to – it’s not like someone said “Hey, who wants to die of brain cancer?” and you were like “Wow! Sounds fun – I hope they pick me!” but I’m mad anyway. Sue me.
I still put spaceships on the Christmas tree every year. That started out as Your Thing, but somehow in the course of just a couple of years, it became Our Thing. Also, the glass pickle ornament that you bought me the year I bought my townhouse – before we even started dating – gets used every year. It’s Rachel’s job to hide the pickle every year. She sometimes does it a little too well.
The past three years have reminded me that dating sucks, but that I need to risk the heartache to have the potential reward. I have only spent time with one person worth mentioning to anyone, and one of the reasons he is worth mentioning is that I know you would like him. The only reason I am in any way qualified to be associated with someone of his caliber is because you spent five and a half years turning me from an uptight workaholic into someone who has a much better understanding of what is truly important in life. And the only reason I can stand taking the risk of entangling myself with someone else is because I know that no matter what happens, I’ve survived worse.
I still see a lot a lot of members of your family. Your sister Jennifer has been a rock, and the rest of the Zims give me more sense of family than anyone in my own blood family except my mother gives me. I still do Christmas with the Rupfs. I’ve had twice as many Christmases with them as I got to have with you. Which seems both wrong and right at the same time. Because I believe that you marry family, so your family will always be my family.
Your iTunes library is being put to good use. I put everything on my iPod, and my favorite thing to do is hit the shuffle button. This weekend, I did this while cleaning up around the house and was treated to George Carlin’s “Seven Words You Can’t Say On Television”, Tom Lehrer’s “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park”, and the Indiana Jones soundtrack overture. It was a little like hanging out with you.
Your dad isn’t doing so well. He has been having health issues for a few months, and who knows how it will turn out. I wish you were here to help your mom deal with things, and also just to sit and play some cribbage with the man because none of the rest of us like cribbage very much. He misses you a lot, and I am a bad daughter in law because I haven’t gone to see him as much as should. I plan to correct this soon, and I hope you, your dad, and the rest of the family can forgive me.
I’m so thankful for the lessons you taught me about how to be a good friend. I have made a lot of new friends since you died. Most of them you would like. Some of them I have told about you, because they need to understand you a little bit. Those are the people who were robbed because they didn’t get the chance to know you. I’ve also become closer with some of the people who are dearest to you. I only ever spent about 2 or 3 hours with your college friend Joey before you died, but now I see him whenever he comes to town. Having him for a friend, and also having Matt as a friend, is a lot like wearing part of my heart outside my chest.
Your impact on the world is still going on in ways you would never suspect. There is at least one couple in this world who says they got married because of you – something about realizing the life is short after you died – and they never actually met you in person.
I’m a healthier person than I was when you died. I look and feel better. My life is less about career and more about relationships, fitness, and finding joy. A few months ago, I saw one of my old colleagues that I used to work with before you got sick, and she didn’t recognize me, literally. And while I was a little bit proud to have made so many positive physical changes that the old me was unrecognizable, I was also stricken with horror. Because I wondered if she couldn’t recognize me, would YOU recognize me? Would you still love me and respect me if you were here today? I sure hope so, because of everyone I’ve ever known, you were the one that loved me best. My biggest fear in life is that nobody will ever “get” me again. If that fear comes true, then it would sure help to know that you would be here, understanding me, if it was up to you.
I’m doing my best to live well, for me, and not worry about what everyone else thinks I should do. You told me this was my job during one of the most important conversations of my life, so I’m doing my damnest to do it right.
And I still love you one hundred billion and six.
Your Pretty Wife