Had he lived, today would have been my father’s seventieth birthday. Tomorrow my mother will be 68. When Dad was alive none of us kids could keep their birthdays straight. Year after year Torey and I would (separately) call Mom and wish her a happy birthday, sometimes singing it to her in a stupid voice. When we had finished, she would say laughing, “Oh Honey, thank you, but today is your dad’s birthday.” Then we would call Dad. Somehow we always forgot.
Dad went into the hospital on April 2 and finally died on June 22. Beside the door of his various rooms was posted his information: Wolfe, Donald R. DOB: 9/27/58.
September 27th. I can’t tell you how many times I read that typed sheet. In those days upon days that numbered his last on earth, I finally learned the date of his birth. When it rolled around just three months after his death, I knew it was coming; I was marking it. This irony was just another drop in the bitterness that was then my cup.
We kids had never really made a big deal about our parents’ birthdays, following their lead. We called, sometimes sent cards, occasionally bought a present and that was enough, but the first birthdays after his death, the burden of my mother’s aloneness fell heavily on me. The 27th dawned and I called my mother and wished her a happy birthday. “Today is your dad’s birthday,” she said gently. I told that I knew and then we both began to cry. I have called her on the 27th and done something for her on her own birthday ever since.
This evening I realized that I forgot to call her, that I forgot today was his birthday at all.
R.I.P. – Rest In Peace is often written as a fitting closing to a tribute or memory of one who is dead, but I don’t find it necessary. I know he is at peace and I am glad to realize that I am too.