This is what I’ve been up to these last couple weeks…
We normally have a joint birthday party for the boys but this year we decided to not have one.
In the past, we’ve always wound up spending the days leading up to their party saying a whole lot of, “Not right now, I have to clean the patio. Not right now, I have to bake the cake. Not right now, I have to do a billion things!” The party is the priority and focus, not them. So this year we’ll keep it simple. No party. Just our family focusing on the birthday boy. The kids are on board with the idea (and excited about picking the dinner and deciding what to do) but I’m a little concerned that they’ll be disappointed. We’ve always done a party. With piñatas and bouncers and everything.
The night before Crappy Boy’s birthday arrives. We leisurely bake and decorate a cake together. We string up some decorations and balloons. (Banner decorations were from Minted by the way, which is the same place I’ll be ordering holiday photo cards from if I can actually remember to, um, do it this year. Not that you can tell how awesome they were from my drawings, but just look at these straws! Swoon.)
The morning of his birthday arrives. We have a lazy breakfast. He wants to go to the arcade. We go. He wants to go back home to open presents. We do. We say ‘yes’ as often as possible. We play with him. We listen to him. We focus on him.
And then he sums up how he feels:
And it was the best birthday he has ever had.
Before we know it, Crappy Baby’s birthday arrives. Same story. No party (although we have extra family in town for the funeral which I’m getting to) and we keep it simple.
He sits down to eat his dinner of choice (fries and sushi and sparkling apple cider) and he too sums up how he feels:
Course that is what he always says when he eats sushi or fries. But still.
Two birthdays (we also had our wedding anniversary, but who is counting) back to back followed by a funeral the following week. And now for the funeral story…
Uncle Ric was greatly loved by the whole family and especially by Crappy Boy and Crappy Baby. He was creative, an artist and a photographer and he played drums in jazz bands. Your classic “cool uncle” type of guy and the kids adored him.
Although he was wiry and thin, he could eat more than anyone else I’ve ever known. In fact, one time at an Indian restaurant everyone asked the waitress for recommendations and someone asked her “What is the best thing on the menu?” but when it was his turn to order he simply asked, “What is the biggest thing on the menu?” And he ordered it. He is the only person I’ve ever known to order based on size alone.
He was one of those people who didn’t say a lot but when he did it was absolutely hilarious or fascinating or insightful. He was fun. He was interesting. He always made us laugh. He was at every single one of their birthday parties. In fact, of all the family members who Crappy Boy sent cards to, Uncle Ric was the only one who replied and sent cards back each time.
And now he is gone.
Never in a million years would we have predicted that it would be him we were saying goodbye to next. But that is how it goes I suppose.
The funeral day arrives. Given our prior funeral experience, we talk at length about how important it will be to stay quiet. What a funeral is for. How it will be a lot of people talking and remembering and being sad and that’s okay.
Crappy Boy makes one last card for him and we bring it and they display it at the front. I can’t look at it or I start to cry.
The service starts. The kids are sitting in the second row. All the talking about staying quiet must have worked because they are quiet! Neither kid seems to be listening to what family and friends are saying. But that’s okay. Although they are moving from me to the chair to the floor and back again, they are being quiet.
It is near the end and two marines enter to do the military flag presentation. Someone starts playing Taps on the trumpet. The boys are suddenly entranced by the slow motion, almost robotic unfolding and the folding of the flag.
The music ends but the folding continues. Everyone is still and there is complete silence other than sniffles from everyone crying. I’ve never seen the flag presentation at a funeral before. It is very powerful and beautiful and sad.
Tears are streaming down my cheeks and Crappy Baby turns to look at me with a pained look on his face:
Is he noticing all the people crying? Is he concerned to see me crying?
Then he says:
Everyone who hears him laughs. It really is the perfect ending.
Especially for the man who ordered food based on size.
We’ll miss you, Uncle Ric.