Friday, July 10, 2009

happy birthday to me

It's my 41st birthday. Over the past few couple of years, these anniversaries have become occasion for reflection, albeit somewhat somber. My 39th birthday was just a month after Kristen died, and I felt I was balancing on the edge of a chasm most of the time. Muddling along at the Lompoc, at home, in life. My 40th wasn't as hard, but I had just sold the Lompoc, and although that was a good thing, my life was definitely in upheaval. Not an easy place to enjoy what was a difficult milestone birthday simply by virtue of the number. The reality of being in the middle of life hit me hard, and it wasn't entirely pleasant.

I've always been a big fan of my birthday, a great excuse for a party for a true party girl at heart. So after my mellow 40th, I thought I'd get a little wild and crazy for my 41st. Little did I know what was around the next corner. 

So my reflections today have led me down some rough paths. The past couple of years have been full of primers. I am 41 and have lost someone that I thought I'd have beside me for another 40 years. That is a loss from which I will never fully recover. I've left one career and while I did stumble into another one that I love, I wonder if it is right for me for the long term. And I have had cancer. I will be in treatment for cancer until I'm 46. If I'm in the majority and make it to 46. 

After dinner tonight, Claire climbed into my lap and I held her and tried with all my power to wrap her in my love, tangibly, physically. I want to watch her and Jacob grow up, be there with them while they do it. And I might not. Now I realize that any one of us might not be here tomorrow, or in a year, or in five. But my "might" is a little mightier than most lately, and sometimes it brings me to tears.

Other reflections today have been less sorrowful. Lying in bed with Claire while she fell asleep, I was thinking about trying to pay attention to each moment. It's hard, and I think it has gotten harder as I've gotten older. Looking out Claire's window at the leaves moving in the breeze, I remembered lying in my own little bed in Five Islands, appreciating the rustle of the oak leaves in the summer just outside my window. Getting out of bed then and going downstairs and out the kitchen door, to sit on the steps and breathe deeply the summer air, stare at the calm, sparkling water of Gott's Cove. I can't see the ocean from my house now, but I can sit and gaze down the long field of gardens, apple trees, and lilacs at a mountain's peak. Life is very, very good.

One resolution I made today is to do something I have been thinking about since Jacob was born, almost 10 years ago. I thought then that it would be a gift to him to write him a letter on his birthday each year. To tell him about the past year, about his character and personality and antics. To tell him once again how much I love him and the ways I love him and that I will love him forever. Almost 10 years have passed, and I haven't written a single letter to either of my kids. But sitting there with Claire tonight, it was clear to me that there was no better way to insure that I could pass along my love made tangible, no matter what happens. And it will be a gift not just to them, but also to myself.


  1. An absolutely fantastic idea! You are a writer at heart...intelligent, caring, wonderful...write each of them a doesn't have to be anything huge...just a note from time to time about how your life is would be something they would treasure for their

  2. oh Patti you make me cry with gratitude - I'm grateful you are putting this all down where I can read it, grateful I met you half our lives ago, and grateful I can learn from you and be inspired.

    This post reminds me of the wonderful movie "My Life without Me" - which you might want to watch if you never have, although maybe not this year. The character tape records her birthday letters to her kids. Either way you do it they will be such treasures to Claire and Jacob. I'm going to do the same for my little Karl, thanks for the inspiration.

    Much love to you. And keep the gorgeous posts coming. I'm drinking them in, and always thirsty for the next one.

  3. happy birthday to you... i came via jenn judd mcgee -- and just to share a bit... my mom had breast cancer when i was in college - i was 20. she was 45. after a lumpectomy, and chemo and radiation - she is blessidly still here.

    what worked for her was doing a combo of eastern/western treatments ideas. i think you do what feels right for you - however crazy and far-fetched. if it seems right -- then it is. she for awhile tried giving up all caffine and being super strict about everything and it made her miserable. not worth it.

    i think the letter writing idea is BEAUTIFUL. and the one thing i can definitely say about cancer... it makes things matter. and it makes you really choose what matters and what doesn't. and i'm grateful that has stuck with me.

    and i'm so grateful my mom is still here.

    wishing you all the best through everything that is coming your way. i'm positive it won't be easy [there is on picture of my mom after a chemo treatment that i can't bear to look at. i burst into tears everytime] - but it also sounds like your life is full of love and promise and good things to savor.

    best wishes - and i'm so amazed at how honest and generous you are with your information. it's a gift.

  4. What a stunning, beautiful and heartfelt post. I found your site through a link to mine, and have started to delve into your archives, finding myself vacillating between misty eyes and ear-to-ear grins. Happy belated birthday to you, thank you for sharing your story with us.