Today is my birthday. I'm 37. My hair, though still mostly brown, is graying. The red accents of my beard shine in the sun, but I can see them growing tired along with the rest of me. Perhaps they too will begin to fade to a shade more appropriate for the way my soul feels.
This year the day is nearly scripted. We will wake and drive an hour to radiation. I will hold my breath that Parker has a good morning. One unlike yesterday, where he physically resisted until the sedative kissed him to sleep. Each morning I hold him as the white propofol is pulsed into his body. I brace his head and tell him I love him. He takes a deep breath and slips away. He relaxes into me and then the army of nurses, assistants and technicians guide his precious, delicate and limp body into position. My wife and I gather our thoughts and our things and leave the room.
Yesterday, though, there were screams. The thoughts he has been keeping inside until now boiled over and they were felt by everyone in that room. They were screams of resistance and anger and exhaustion. It was one last stage of defense against a routine he no longer wants to participate in. Someone apologized--it was a doctor I think. Nobody wants to see a child like that. What else does one say? I have no idea. But it makes me incredibly sad and it makes me cry. It's the last way he should feel in my arms.
Birthdays are artificial events. Today I wish they didn't exist. I don't feel like celebrating me. But we will celebrate being together. The four of us. Parker is excited that I am having a birthday, and my daughter knows enough of "Happy Birthday" to be so damn cute. So I can celebrate with them, for them. But these days are now markers. Now it's another reason to reflect and to project about how my next birthday will be. I can't even think that far into the future, and I really don't want to anyway.
As I blow out the flames atop the candles tonight, I will be making a wish (perhaps a few) but this year I will wait a little while longer. I will hold onto the wishes before I let them go. I will ask nicely for them to be granted, then I'll scream into the universe with the same power and agony as my son so they are heard. It will make me feel better, if only for a brief period. And then I will eat mini-cakes, as planned, with my beautiful wife and children. And we will lose ourselves in the sweet icing and red velvet deliciousness. And we will be happy.
And I guess that is all one can hope for on a day like this. Just be happy. Enjoy the little things, fill our faces with cake and feel like kids again: innocent, naive, amazed at how sugar, flour and eggs can come together so perfectly and bring peace to our lives in a moment when everything else is chaos and pain and tears.