I’m big on anniversaries. I have (over)thought about why I remember so many anniversaries and I’ve decided that they are a sort of home for me. Each one represents not just what happened on that day, but where I was in my life, who I was with, what was important at that time. They’re my own little time capsules and I take them very personally. This is probably why I nearly bit Ron’s head off when he tried to argue about what year it snowed on Christmas Eve here in Houston. “It was 2006!” he protested. “I know because I was at my parents’ house!”
“Oh really? That one year when you were at the house your parents have lived in your entire life? It wasn’t 2006, it was 2004. I know because I was still married to my first husband, was in fact dreading going home that night, and Mom hadn’t had her brain aneurysm yet and was there to photograph it.” So there.
My first kiss was July 29, 1990. I was at WaterWorld in Denver with my youth group, but flying back home to Texas the next day. I’d had a crush on Matt all summer and we said our goodbyes in the wave pool. I went to the zoo with my aunt afterwards and spent the rest of the afternoon wondering if I was going to hell and if it had been worth it. I found out I was pregnant with Allie on September 10, 2001 which put a serious cramp in my exciting life of going out clubbing with my sister while looking ridiculously fabulous. I spent the afternoon wondering if I had truly appreciated my last vodka tonic and whether I would look as ridiculously fabulous as a mom. I touched my first Jimmy Choo shoe on October 22, 2004 and I cried at its beauty. Some of my friends had flown in for my birthday and we were at the Galleria doing the tourist thing. I probably wasn’t crying about the shoe, I was probably crying because I was turning 27 and knew my marriage was pretty much over with. But then again, Jimmy Choos are pretty fucking beautiful. I met my BFF on February 27, 2010 when we were invited to her house for the best fish tacos ever. Ron had met this cool blogger chick and thought she and I might hit it off. (He said that on February 22, 2010 and though I was doubtful at the time, this date is now the anniversary of the biggest understatement EVER).
March 4 marks the 17th anniversary of my father’s death. I was 16 and a junior in high school. My favorite classes were AP Anatomy and Yearbook. I didn’t have too many friends because most kids my age were into drinking and partying and I was very against any of that. Boys liked me, but I didn’t have a boyfriend because I figured out pretty quickly that all they wanted was to sleep with me, and I was completely not interested. I was a good student, a good daughter, a good sister. That weekend, Mom had dropped Lindsay and me off in Lousiana at the home of my dad’s first wife, so we could visit our half-sisters, Chastity and Deedee. We hadn’t seen them in awhile and it was a great visit until we got that phone call. It wasn’t a car crash or a mugging or anything dramatic. He just died of an alcohol and drug overdose. Just like we always knew he would. Just like he always knew he would – bragging that “I’ll never make it to 40! I’m rock and roll!” Great job, dad. You died 6 months shy of 40. It wasn’t a surprise, but it still stung a little. The thing that hurt most, was knowing how hurt my little sisters would be. I was old enough to be jaded at that point. They were not.
The week after that was strange. I had to call and tell a couple of my friends. It was awkward. They didn’t know what to say to comfort me, and I didn’t know what to say to comfort about not knowing how to comfort me. On Monday, the counselor’s office sent a student aid to pull me out of class – which was a rare occurrence at our school. I knew why they waited until third period; the student aid at that time was Joe. He had lost his mother to cancer earlier in the year and I’m sure that the well-intentioned faculty thought we could buddy up and share talk of dead parents. Recognizing how out of the ordinary the class disruption was, a few students around me asked “Why are you going to the counselor’s office?” I was at the center of the kind of attention I didn’t want. I attempted a non-chalant “Oh, my dad died this weekend, so I’m sure they want to talk to me.” It fell flat and most people stared like a second head had just sprouted from my shoulder and started rapping in French. I grabbed my backpack, headed toward Joe and he gave me that sad and cliched “sorry for your loss” smile. But at least his eyes said honestly “I know how much this sucks for you. All of it.”
The next month was strange because every day turned into an anniversary. Every Friday was an anniversary of the last day he was alive. Saturdays were anniversaries of the day I found out. Wednesdays commemorated the viewing. Thursdays marked the day of the funeral. I drank for the first time ever. Our small Texas town was on the Louisiana border and back then the drinking age was 18. So it was pretty easy to find a friend to get me a six-pack of Zima. My friend and her boyfriend drove me around while I drank in the backseat. I ended up puking in a Whataburger parking lot, crying and wondering what was so great about this that my dad had died for it. I began to really not like my anatomy class. Particularly difficult was our field trip to the Harris County Medical Examiner. Seeing an autopsy table and hearing all the details of the procedure, it was too easy to picture my dad there. When we walked by the cooler, someone had left the door open and even though they were covered by sheets, the sight of the dead was too much.
This year on the anniversary of his death, I freaked out a little bit. That date can sometimes magnify every little inconsequential thing that is going wrong and I will blow it out of proportion. My husband’s headache becomes a leaking brain aneurysm and his unwillingness to go to the ER becomes a deliberate attempt to die and leave me all alone. My mom making irresponsible, but well-intentioned decisions becomes a pattern of destructive behavior and I lament that I am the only adult in my family and was in fact raised by children. My daughters’ desire to play outside with their friends instead of running errands with me becomes I have alienated my children because I have to work so much and they feel abandoned and unloved. For that one day, I reverted to being that naive and sweet, but overly dramatic 16-year old who is old enough to be jaded, but still young enough to take it all very very personally. It was 1994 on Friday and it sucked.
It got better. Well, it got easier anyway. Talking with Chastity last week, she asked “Does it still bother you that he died?” I instantly and honestly answered no. It bothers our younger sisters still, but Chastity and I know that his death meant that there was an entire generation of kids that he didn’t get to fuck up. He wasn’t around to screw up grandkids’ birthdays, or to be too drunk to show up to our weddings. Sure I loved him and I miss what he could have become. I respect his talent and am proud to carry on the best of his genetic material. But I am also old enough to know that though it sucked at the time, his passing was the cruelest of blessings.