You would have been 50 today. Fifty. You know I'd have given you shit about that, Old Man. From here on my relatively youthful perch of 49 (and aren't all things relative, really?), I'd have teased you mercilessly about closing out a half century. And you would have pretended to complain about aches and pains, humoring me in my belief that my eleven month advantage gave me a monopoly on youth. But I'd also have brought you presents and taken you to dinner and let you know that I loved you, even if you were impossibly old.
"You have such a long, graceful neck."
But the thing is, no matter what day it was you were always giving me gifts. Let me be clear, you were awful at buying presents. After so many years of defaults to gag gifts I learned; starting a couple of months before my birthday or Christmas I would hover at store windows and point out what I liked. And you would work your way through the list. Every item would show up, awkwardly wrapped but given with real love. But those aren't the gifts I am talking about. No, I am referring to the way that I would catch you looking at me--was it quizzically, or with amazement?--and you would say things that took my breath away. "You have the most beautiful back." "You are the most important thing." "You are the smartest person I've ever met." And I would squirm a bit, uncomfortable from the flattery, unsure of the veracity of your assertions. But they sunk in. I breathed in your words, and from there they circulated through my body and eventually lodged way down deep in my heart. You may have been crazy, but at least you were crazy about me.
Now, I know how the poor old Earth felt when Galileo Galilei demoted it from the center of the universe. I know how it feels to be just another planet, and not even the one closest to the sun at that. To be loved makes a girl feel lovable. To be seen makes her feel visible. There were no pedestals in our home; you never thought I was perfect. I was allowed to be human and flawed and on occasion (okay, often) grumpy and sad, yet still be amazing. You claimed my wrinkles made me more beautiful, that my grey hairs showed my wisdom. You told me that I could do anything I put my mind to. And so on this, your birthday, I find myself missing your kindnesses to me. I find myself longing for you and your terrible terrible judgment.
"You can't die first, because I couldn't live without you."
You said that a lot. You so wanted to grow old together. You wanted us to be one of those old couples that people stop on the street to watch shuffle by, holding hands, holding fast. You would have lived on, you know, had the tables been turned. You'd be amazed at what you can bear when you have to. You would have been astonished by the reserves of strength that pool deep within us, just waiting for the day when we are parched and thirsty. And I suppose that's the final gift you gave to me: I know now that I am lovely, and smart, and strong, and I can withstand just about anything. I am not the Sun, but nor am I planet trapped in a fixed orbit. I am a rocket ship. I am a shooting star.
Happy birthday, Michael Mine. I am doing okay. I know you were concerned that I be okay. And I am. I am surrounded by love. I am lifted right off my feet by it. I don't hear so much about my neck. I don't hear "baby got back!" quite so often. But I don't necessarily need to. I know it. I do. If you look overhead--wherever you are, drinking your beer and watching a baseball game go into the 13th inning, railing about this election that you would have so enjoyed--if you glance above you, you'll see me blazing through the sky. Make a wish, Darlin'. Happy 50th.