Tuesday, July 21, 2009
A Matter of Lives and Deaths
This past weekend was my birthday, and for the first time in five years I actually celebrated my birthday. I even enjoyed it! (And, trust me...that is saying something.) I have serious birthday issues. Not in that, "Gee, I can't stand the thought of growing older" kind of way. I am fine with older.
No, my issues come with more baggage than a couple of new laugh lines... It all started on July 19, 2005. I was at work, and the receptionist buzzed me, "It is your mother," she said in her soft, lyrical voice. Smiling, I picked up the phone, and awaited my mother's chorus of, "Right about now you were greeting the world!" Instead, I heard a very haggard voice choke out, "Honey, it's your uncle. He walked into a diner and shot a girl."
What? My uncle? But he hated guns! And he would never hurt anyone. This is the man who gave a homeless person one of his cemetery plots. This is the man who lived with his long-time "partner" and tended to their home and gardens in a tiny town an hours drive away. This is someone who spent hours pouring over perennials in the flower catalogues. He spent his spare time and every spare dime creating a beautiful park for the town out of a tumble of weeds and cracked swings. He was Citizen of the Year for crying out loud!
Oh, and there was that other thing...the fact that his own sister had been murdered just a few years before while working at the town's prison--stabbed sixteen times by an inmate. It had devastated him. How could he put another family in the same position?
So, yes, I have issues. It just seemed wrong to celebrate my life on the same day that my uncle took someone else's.
But this year, while acutely aware that nothing had changed--he is still in prison, and she is still gone--somehow, some of the normalcy seeped back into my life. I went to a movie, and out to dinner, and I even ate some birthday cake and (for a while at least) that piece of my life that I had set aside was back.
I am still learning, though...learning how to live among all those that went before, yet who still seem too much with us.