Your birthday was incapacitating.
In the morning I tried to do my normal routine- getting Audrey fed, dressed, cleaning up the kitchen. I opened up the fridge and a plate with leftovers fell out, shattering everywhere. I sat on the floor among the shards and cried for you. For your loss of another year. It is inconceivable to me that you died at 33 years old and then of course, I always see if from your own perspective and feel your shock for you.
I planned on visiting another preschool and taking Audrey to her music class, but she didn’t seem to feel like going either. I found she had climbed into her crib with the small album I made for her of photos of the two of you. She hadn’t picked it up once yet from the spot where I showed her I would leave it, but there she was by herself looking through all of the photos quietly and showing her stuffed “a -mimals.” At one point she said excitedly flipping, “Mommy, I can’t stop!”
I asked her if she wanted to go to music class and she said, “No…I wanna stay ooome.” So we did. I had told her it was your birthday and I think she was feeling similar to the way I was.
We ate Christmas cookies in bed and watched a video/documentary on animals that I’d taken out from the library. It was good to see all of the creatures that the earth is populated with- again, it makes me doubt that a place that teems with such extraordinary life is all meaningless and accidental.
Audrey sang her best “happy birthday” to appa and cut a slice of her wooden cake, holding it up to our wedding picture over our bed, to feed you.
A friend I haven’t seen in a while called and asked if she could bring lunch over. I spoke through tears- “Yes…please. It’s harder than I thought today.” She has a new four month old baby and came with Korean food for Audrey and I.
The evening was better. I met with nine of your friends in Koreatown at a fabulous kalbi place chosen by one of your good friends. You and I had never eaten there which made it easier for me. You would’ve loved it. It was loud and kind of crazy but I ate a lot and had an OB beer in your honor.
I really wanted to pay for everyone who came out…you always loved to treat people. I remember being really surprised when we took a fairly new friend of mine and her husband out for Korean in Bay Ridge a few years ago and you insisted on treating them. We didn’t know them very well and we didn’t have a lot of money at the time- I think I had recently been laid off. But that was just how you were. So…I told your friends I wanted to treat, but they refused. I told them again, I really want to, in tears, but they were adamant that I should not pay for everyone. It’s funny, money seems so small to me these days. I figure more can always be made somehow. So unlike the gift of life and the curse of death. So human this paper money.
We toasted you one more time, “To Dan, we love you and we miss you,” I said, holding back more tears. Then I gave out the calendars I made of your photos of Brooklyn to everyone who attended and they were impressed with your eye and creativity. I miss your creative spirit very badly.
I was really happy with how everyone was talking with each other- when most of the people there knew you from different social circles. Another friend wrote me an email after the night was over telling me that he wasn’t surprised by it since any friend of Dan’s was probably a really good person.
I thought a few of us might go grab a Guinness at an Irish pub afterwards, but in the end, everyone joined. We got a pretty private table upstairs in the back. I had one Guinness, and then another. Without any formal invitation or organization, we all shared stories of you. There were smiles…and tears. A couple of your friends really wanted to know what happened, so I told them what I knew and showed them the last few photos you took in your iPhone (now mine). We were silent for a moment.
I went to the restroom and spoke to my reflection: “I’m drinking a f—ing Guinness Dan.” I had to tell you. I smiled at myself.
I guess this is a part of what they call “integrating the lost loved one,” taking on some of their traits and characteristics as a part of yourself. I think that’s supposed to be kind of beautiful and healing. I hate it. I don’t want to integrate you or absorb you into myself. I like you otherly, surprising, and wholly yourself.