My husband Jeff’s birthday is, was, is January 6.
Twelfth Night, Feast of the Epiphany, “Little Christmas”, he would chortle, rubbing his hands together gleefully, eyes shining in anticipation.
The last birthday he was here was on a Tuesday. He was too sick to open his presents until Friday. I never got to make the special dinner I had planned for him.
In the bright afternoon of that long-ago Tuesday, we went on one of his favorite outings – we drove to Old Orchard Beach, sat in the car facing the frigid beach, and ate his favorite lunch: pizza slices with crushed red peppers and Pier fries doused with malt vinegar and icy Coke slurped through a paper straw.
I remember feeling restless and wanting to walk on that cold beach, but he was too weak from cancer or chemo or both, so we stayed in the car and rested, the sun glowing golden through my closed eyelids.
Later that afternoon I crouched beside him on our bed, holding his hair in one hand and a basin in the other, as he gave up that pizza and fries. His favorite. He never had them again.
As expected, January 6 is one of the hard days for me now. This is the seventh one since he’s been gone. It doesn’t get easier. Lots of things do, but his birthday is not one of them. In the early days I thought maybe by now I wouldn’t still miss him so much. I was so, so wrong.
This year on January 6 I’m treating myself to a long massage from a dear lady who croons quietly, and anoints me with scented oils, and rubs my body with her strong hands as the sun streams in her window and glows golden through my closed eyelids. I’ll drive south to Old Orchard Beach in search of open space and snowy owls. I’ve got the freedom, time, and inclination to walk miles down that cold beach if I want. I won’t eat pizza and Pier fries, though, probably ever again.
When I was married, we always left the Christmas tree and all the decorations up until after Little Christmas. Now that I am oh-so-single, I kick that green-needled bitch to the curb on New Year’s Day.
I guess all this is just to say, we can never know when or why somebody might be having a hard day, for a million different reasons. I learned this lesson the hard way, and although it is easier said than done, I preach it constantly: Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle you know nothing about.