Last November I had a sad realization. My mother would have been 60. My mother has been dead now for 14 years this month. After the death of a loved one, you start to learn a lot of things about love, and loss and family. One of the newest things I've learned is that you start to forget. You start to forget the little things about the people you love the longer they've been gone. For example, I don't remember what kind of birthday cake my mother liked. Some old friends have told me she liked carrot cake. But I have no memory of that. Perhaps I was too young. Maybe she preferred pie.
I like to plan parties and thus found myself daydreaming about the kind of party I would have planned for her. What cake would I make, where would we have held it, who I would invite. Who? That's the key word. Birthdays are about the people. February seemed to be full of birthdays for us to celebrate, as well as one important death date to remember. At the various parties I attended this month, I realized that I'm lucky. I have special people in my life who want me to come celebrate with them. At some parties, I wanted to run around and tell the other guests that they are lucky too. I wanted to tell the photographer to get one more shot of the cake, I wanted to tell the moms not to worry if the toddlers had icing on their shirts. I wanted to tell myself to stop calculating the calories of the cake or the workout I will need later to compensate. I just wanted to be glad to be the who of this party. Be glad you have this person in your life.
The last birthday of the month I attended was my husband's. So, there I sat in a loud and crowded restaurant. Eating fried chicken and donut-grams (his choice not mine-no calorie counting remember). Laughing and chatting with our children and friends. I noticed the grey which is starting to colour his beard and I was amazed at the days we have shared together. The days that seem so ordinary. And yet at the end of every 365 ordinary days what are we celebrating? The who. The birthday boy yes, but also the people who were a part of at least one of those 365 days that are now behind us. What an ordinary thing a birthday party is. And yet how extraordinary a life I have because of who is in it.
As all the sugary goodness got passed around I realized, I don't know what my husband's favorite kind of cake is either. Trust me, there was a lot of sugar that day. But he doesn't play favorites. Really though, what is his favorite? I don't know. And then I forgave myself a bit for forgetting the kind of cake my mother liked. Maybe she didn't play favorites either. Maybe I've forgotten the cake she liked, but I remembered her. And 14 years after her death day, I still remember her birthday. She was one of the most important whos of my life (my husband is the other). I may be forgetting some of the whats and wheres of my time with her. But I remember the who. Today I may not have my mother but I have many others whos to share this ordinary day with. I'm lucky that way.