I don't want to have a baby on June 13th.
My friend Mark died on Friday, June 13th, 1997. It was a very bad day, the capper on a very bad year. When your best friend dies at the pinnacle of what's pretty much the worst year of your life, it does something to you. It's the kind of ironic that makes people pitch a little bit of a nutty, but in my case, it had the opposite effect: it turned me around.
That's the kind of ironic that Mark would have noticed and liked about it; the fact that he died at 32, four months after becoming a father, two days before Father's Day, maybe not so much. But the irony is something he would have found meaning in, much as everyone who knew him tried to find some meaning in the fact that one day he was there and the next day he was gone. He would have made his point out of this fact, and me being who I was then, I would have probably rolled my eyes at him and said "Really?" in the most sarcastic voice I could possibly muster. And he would have rolled his eyes back at me and not said anything and known that I would get it, that everything would be illuminated when I was ready to see it.
Mark saw something in me every once in a while. When I once admitted in front of a whole bunch of people that I respected a lot that I had been wrong and stupid and stubborn about something and it had turned me into a not-very-nice person, it made him cry. Mark was one of the few people on earth who really saw me becoming who I was, from the time he first met me until the time that he died, and what he saw was forward motion, not just the running in place that it felt to me like I was doing. It made me want to be a better person.
Mark made everyone around him want to be a better person. The thing about Mark being such a good person wasn't that you felt inadequate by comparison, because he wasn't looking to be better than you. He just made you try harder. He still makes me try harder.
It wasn't that he was perfect, some kind of a saint. He was just a guy who loved his wife and his kid and wanted to be productive and do good things and help people. He was just a guy, and on a Friday afternoon in June, he died, and everyone who knew him had a hole carved in them that day.
I drove past his office the morning he died. I'd meant to stop and talk to him, to tell him why it was that for the past year I had been so sad that I could barely stand it, but his car wasn't there. He was already dying and I didn't know until it was too late to say goodbye to him and it's by far the biggest regret of my entire life. I've spent the last 12 years trying to find a way to say goodbye in just the right way. I haven't found it yet.
The fact is, this date is sort of a high holy day for me. It's a day for me to be still, look backwards, look at the past year through the eyes of someone whose opinion meant more to me than I really could have realized at the time that I lost him forever. And as pregnant as I am and as uncomfortable as that is, as much as I'm looking forward to meeting my daughter, I don't want to have her today.
June 13th is not the birthday I want her to have. I want today to hold still in time. This day will always belong to Mark in my mind, and as eager as I am to meet The New Girl, I am afraid that if she's born today I will always spend her birthday as I have for the past twelve years: missing my friend, remembering the feeling of being hit with a baseball bat when the phone rang and it was Joy and she was crying, feeling again the carved-out feeling of knowing that I'd never get the chance to be the better person that Mark saw in me, knowing that there wasn't any comfort for me in any part of any of what was happening. I don't want the significance of this day to fade at all for me, to change.
Mark would probably say that today is a perfect day for her to be born. He would probably say that he would love for the tenor and tone of this day to change forever. Mark wouldn't like how this day has held still in time for me for the past twelve years and he'd think it was entirely appropriate for me to say goodbye to him by saying hello to my daughter. But...no.
This is a holiday for me, a day that I spend trying not to be too sad to function. I don't want her to have to share her birthday with anyone, and I know that I'm still not ready to say goodbye to Mark, after 12 years. Maybe I never will be. I've written a letter to Mark every year on June 13th, and maybe I always will. Her day should be her own.
But still, I'm thinking about Mark, and how much he'd like to see her be born today, and wondering if she will be. I'm thinking about The New Girl and how much Mark loved little kids and how much he loved his own son Jamie and how much he would have loved my kids and all of our friends' kids. I'm thinking about life as a grownup, as a mom, how I'm different than I ever thought I would be, and why I am this way. And like I say every year, I'm this way, in part, because my best friend died when I was 21 years old and I still needed him to be there and one Friday afternoon in June he was gone, and I am still just so pissed about that.
I miss Mark every day, but on June 13th, I miss him more. And this year, I miss him more than ever because I am standing on the precipice of great change again, and there is no going back. I keep thinking it'll get easier, but the fact is, I don't really want it to get easier yet. It's one of those things that shouldn't be easy, because if it were easy it just wouldn't mean as much.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
I don't want to have a baby on June 13th.