Sunday, August 27, 2023

Nigel would’ve been 59

My Nigel was born 59 years ago today, a number that underscores how we never got the chance to grow old together. Next year he would’ve turned 60, eight months after I turn 65. And the fact we don’t get to share that makes no sense, even now.

This year, I’m particularly pissed-off. When I turned 59, Nigel often said to me, “Fuck you’re old!” and, “I can’t believe I’m going to be married to a SIXTY year old.” I was very much looking forward to returning the favour this year. However, he’d of course have already started his new jokes at my birthday this past January, with an updated, “Fuck you’re really old!”, and this year he’d have added, “I can’t believe I’m going to be married to a SUPERANNUITANT!”, using a somewhat old-fashioned term for “pensioner” one that he would’ve used precisely because it was old-fashioned: He would’ve felt it underscored me being old. I would’ve pretended to be annoyed and said to him, “Not yet!” every time he said that, just like I did when I turned 59. And we would both have thought that what we were saying this year was hilarious.

And that’s the thing: For me, this grief journey isn’t about being sad and crying all the time, not anymore. Instead, it’s about remembering him, smiling, and laughing at our lame jokes. This is something I touched on in my post about his 58th birthday:
…There’s never a day I don’t think about him, of course, but his birthdays have always been the day I’ve been most keenly aware of how much I loved him, and how thankful I was to share life with him. That’s still every bit as true, except the sharing life part is now past-tense, filled with memories of happy times, his laugh, and that cheeky grin he had when he was joking mischievously—including when it was at my expense.
For me, his birthday has become a chance to celebrate everything we had together, how meaningful that was, and how his legacy still helps shape my life, even when I deal with new (to me) things like figuring out and understanding problems with my home ethernet network, for just one example—though there are many others. It’s also a chance to celebrate his life and accomplishments, and to remember what a little shit he could be, too, and that mischievous, cheeky grin of his when he was one. Those are all good and happy things—just like our life together was.

For the first couple years of my grief journey, there wasn’t all that much difference for me between Nigel’s birthday and the horrible anniversary a little over three weeks later. I couldn’t help but think of what was, rather than what is, nor—especially—the space where the two merge and go with me as I move forward. This has been an evolution—and for all I know, it may continue to evolve and change. Actually, it probably will.

This year, I went out for lunch with my mother-in-law and one of my sisters-in-law. We went back to Saints Public House, the place we went to recently (and it was still really nice). It was the sort of thing we often did for Nigel’s birthday when he was alive, so it was the perfect thing to do today.

My trip there today was also symbolic of how things have changed. As I was getting ready to leave the house, I was thinking how I should set my GPS to guide me there again, and then I tried to picture my mental map—and it was there. This hardly ever happens anymore, but today the map was there and, it turned out, it was perfect (not that I relied on my dodgy memory, of course: I still set the GPS, but I absolutely didn’t need it). On the way, I also thought about how happy Nigel would be that I do stuff like that, going out to meet-up with family, and that I drive wherever I want to go, including over narrow country roads, and even at night (though I still hate night driving…) .

The point is that I’m doing what I need to do, what I was always capable of doing, and what Nigel encouraged me to do. Yet even as I do these ordinary things, I still carry him in my heart, and in my memories, and I celebrate all that we had—and take all of that forward with me.

But yeah, fuck he’d be old!

Happy Birthday, sweetheart. Always.


Nigel would’ve been 58 (2022)
Nigel would’ve been 57 (2021)
Surviving the day and being okay (A2021 post on how I handled his birthday)
We celebrated Nigel’s birthday (About the party in 2020)
It won’t be a good day (2020 – the first birthday after he died)

Special Note:I didn’t talk about Nigel’s birthday on this blog while he was alive because I wanted to protect him, and so, I didn’t share stuff that was personal to him. I talk about it now because I have no way of knowing who may run across my posts, and maybe they'll help someone else in a situation similar to mine. Besides, I love talking about the most important person in my adult life.


Roger Owen Green said...

I've written about people who have passed - a co-worker, my grandfather, for two - and it was connective tissue the reader sought.

Arthur Schenck said...

There's a lot of connective tissue. Personally, I think when we share all that, and any insights we've gained. it makes it easier for people to understand US, and how/why we are the way we are. Everything in life affects us one way or another, and I think the death of others can have particularly significant for that.