That Tuesday I awoke early before the sunrise and walked myself like an eager, panting dog along the quiet sidewalk, strung against the hues of pale golden light. In the gray I contemplated, in the amber I celebrated: her life. I met her in mid-town Manhattan on the morning of her 60th birthday. Would I have done it differently if the situation had been otherwise? Maybe. Can I imagine it otherwise? The luxury of unacknowledged health? No.
I was glad to rise early, to take her to breakfast, to soak her in alongside the challah French toast, to take her in, scooped in to my spinach and goat cheese omelet. It was one of those moments where the conversation is so well-intended and genuine, where both parties are trying hard out of love despite their obvious difference. I want to bubble-wrap those moments, I want to press and hang those moments as reminders for all the drab, conflictual ones in between.
Perhaps it was also fulfilling for self-congratulatory reasons. She made me feel good about myself, proud of the woman I had become, proud that I had my priorities in line to her, proud even that I was coming to her as a young woman who has finally found love.
I knew she was trying- this love not what she had imagined for her nice Jewish girl, this love not the wood-framed coffee table she imagined to see in her own living room. She hadn’t gotten used to the texture and color, the height and shape, but this morning breakfast, my omelet, her challah, she seemed to say I will, I do, and I’m proud.
This weekend marked the 60th Birthday family celebration, too: The kids (under 30) pitched in to buy her a pink Beachcruiser bicycle, replete with Beagle-doggie basket and pink streamers (oy). Her sister surprised her by flying in from across the country. We had t-shirts made with her face on it (embrace garishness, I say) for a family breast cancer walk (postponed due to the bagels and lox weighting down all stomachs beforehand). Most of all, this weekend she made an (erev erev) Rosh Hashanah speech, proclaiming a New Year of health and love for all of us, of personal growth (deleted: engagement & childbearing pressures to those aged 32 and under).
I know every birthday won’t be so fanciful and bright. I know I could say more terrible things. But for now, the energy glows in ways it hasn’t in the two years passed. Beneath the shadow of illness and frailty, there is so much life.