Earlier this week, I had a full blown temper tantrum. Like, a toddler sized meltdown. I was the almost 40 year old woman crying and stamping her feet.
Because my family did not acknowledge my birthday.
Other than a little note left by my bedside as my husband snuck off to work, there were no cards or presents or dinner reservations. Not even a take-out pizza. My kids never bothered to say Happy Birthday. My family forgot to call. The lovely texts and Facebook messages were drowned out by the silence in my own home. For all of my "I don't care about birthdays, I don't need a present!" bravado, it still hurt that no one at my house seemed to think my birthday was worth celebrating. I mean, couldn't someone have stuck a candle in a fucking Twinkie? Would that have been so hard? Lucy makes cards to give to perfect strangers - surely she had made one for me in her fully-stocked art room.
But I was mistaken.
So at the end of the day, after realizing that no, there were no dinner plans, and yes, I was going to have to figure out what to feed the kids after all, and no, there wasn't so much as a birthday Oreo coming my way, I lost my shit a little. I was tired, and overwhelmed, and my feelings were hurt.
I declared the next day a do-over. I made dinner plans. My boss gave me a cake. WITH candles. I read birthday messages on Facebook. Max apologized for not saying Happy Birthday. That night at my favorite sushi place, I had a cocktail. We got home around 8. Had cake. Got the kids in bed. It had been a good day, even if it was a day late and I *had* been forced to plan it myself. As I rocked the baby to sleep, my cellphone rang. It was late by then. Too late to get a phone call for any good reason.
And that was when I found out that Harlan had died.
As I climbed in the car barefoot clutching my phone and a charger and very little else, and drove down the mountain in the dark towards my friend, the one who had called when she found her self, suddenly, a widow with two kids and a mortgage to take care of, I had no idea what had happened. It didn't matter, of course. All that matters is that he was here - a man with a grin permanently taking up his entire face, eyes that crinkled and a booming laugh - and then he was not.
When I opened the door and walked into a living room so full of grief it was impossible to take a breath, the reality hit me right in the chest. I steadied myself.
I am still steadying myself. When I am stuck by another wave of knowing, the double overhead that towers over you for that brief terrifying moment before you are swallowed up, those few seconds when down is up and your ears are filled with a roaring, and you cannot breathe, I just hang on for dear life until I find my way to the surface again.
Valentine's Day was full of love and hugs and friends and family. We passed the baby (who was clearly brought into my life in order to help all of us through the weeks ahead) and ate boxes of chocolates, and consumed entire pies in one sitting. An endless pot of coffee in the kitchen and a steady stream of people coming and going.
But one very important person was not there. And each of us, in our own way, celebrated that crazy day of Hallmark love with a broken heart.