06 December 2011

"Let's go out for Korean next Wednesday."

That's what he suggested.

I'd been talking about Korean food a lot since my return from visiting John's family. One of my favorite things about taking the kids to Michigan is eating lots and lots of Korean food, both home-cooked and in restaurants. John was the Korean chef in our house and I never picked up his skills, so I use our time with the in-laws to get my fill.

And so, either tired of or inspired by my gochujang-laced sighs and daydreaming, the suggestion was made and it was decided. Next Wednesday, what is settling in to be our usual mid-week date night, we'd go out for Korean food. Who was I to argue? Most people I know--myself included--need more Korean food in their lives, and his interest in trying new restaurants and new cuisines is one of the many things I find endearing and appealing about him.

What I neglected to note is that tomorrow, the appointed day for the Korean food outing, is John's birthday. My Korean chef would be 39 tomorrow. And now it happens that I will find myself eating Korean food with another man, one who reminds me in many wonderful and meaningful ways of John.

In fact, in the important ways he could not be more like John. He is the embodiment of kindness. He is thoughtful and generous. He brings out in me the things I like most about myself, and being around him encourages me to be the person I want to be.

He's not Korean, not by a mile. Not by a million miles. But there's a bittersweet, unintended symbolism to the fact that he'll have his introduction to Korean cuisine tomorrow. And even better, that tomorrow, as the banchan arrive, I can explain to him the significance of the day and he will appreciate it and value it and understand it.

***************************

John's birthday has since his death been one of the hardest days of the year for me. Much harder than the day of his death. The day of his death seems more of a celebration to me, the end of a struggle whose time had come, even if was not welcome. His birthday, though, marks the days he didn't get to have. Birthdays are for thinking about the year that has passed and the year that's to come, reflections that in this case are hollow.

I'm not very New Age-y or metaphysical, but coincidences around dates and events don't seem entirely random to me, either. I feel John with me this year in comforting ways. I was shopping over the weekend and one of the stores I was in was giving away Charms Sweet & Sour lollipops, a favorite of John's before he had cancer and a help during his treatments as they kept the nausea at bay. I would buy those things by the case and stash them in his briefcase, coat pockets, and car so that he'd have them at hand if he felt queasy. I don't think I'd had one since he was sick, and then there one was, days before his birthday. Last Friday, I learned that a neighborhood friend shares John's birthday. Then I made the realization about the Korean food date. I don't take any of these things as a sign of any type, per se, but as . . . something.

I ate my lollipop today, I'll eat Korean food tomorrow. Maddie and Riley asked about baking John a cake, but he didn't really like cake, so we're not going to do that. I'm going to take Maddie and Riley to school, go running, go to work late. He valued time; I will give some to our children, take some for myself.

Happy 39th, Goose.

27 comments:

ivfcycler said...

thank you for this.

erk said...

You'd better take Maddie out for a Mr. Misty Float.

Anonymous said...

That is really nice that you can handle the "coincidence" of the Korean food/birthday in that way. I would have cancelled. I like your way better. Enjoy your time, I know your kids will!

Mizasiwa said...

Wow - you have grown so much as time has gone (or maybe found yourself again?) Im glad for you that you didnt cancel and that you are able to honour the date in the way you will be, its hard the days they miss - i know. but you are so strong!! I hope that the day is a good one for you

ashleyjnc said...

Ha, I made it through until I saw the Goose, and then the tears... I began reading shortly after you made CNN a couple years ago.... You have evolved so well... the kids are amazing and I know John would delight in them. Perhaps these subtle reminders are giving you the approval on the new fella.

BiancaW said...

Ashleyjnc said it before I could. Was doing so well, until "Happy Birthday Goose".

Have a lovely day today. It sounds like it will be.

Sandy said...

Thank you.

(another) karen said...

Happy Birthday John.

Thinking of you (all)
Karen

Anonymous said...

Just an observation it seems Baking the cake is less about what John would have liked and more about what Maddie and Riley want to honor their dad.

Melissa

Goddess in Progress said...

That makes such sense to me, that his birthday would be harder than the anniversary of his death. Your words get that across so well.

I hope today is a good day, more sweet than bitter.

Betsy said...

Poignant, beautiful words. I echo everything your commentors have stated - you are doing exceptionally well, honoring John beautifully, and helping your children keep him in their lives. It is nothing short of amazing! Thank you for sharing your journey. I hope today goes as well as it can as you remember John and spend time with important people.

Jen said...

Thinking of you today, and appreciating your sharing of coincidences and memories.

liz smith said...

My dad died very suddenly the end of October. Four days before my birthday and six days before my sisters. We muddled through and everyone said Thanksgiving would be hard. WE did OK for T-day but I was blindsided by the gut aching pain of what would have been his 66th birthday the following week. I get what you are saying about the loss of future with that day. I hopw you find peace and comfort witht the day.

Wanderoke said...

It's difficult for me to enjoy my late wife's favorite foods. How wonderful for the kids that they can share in some of John's favorites with his parents.

And what great strength you have. Thank you for sharing all that you do.

Barbara Jean said...

This is a beautiful post. Thanks for sharing. Wishing you all the best.

Rachel said...

What a lovely post. Sense memories can be so powerful. I am sending you warm thoughts. Enjoy the meal.

Alayna said...

Thinking of you today. Sending lots of love. Happy birthday, John!

Elaine H said...

You sound like you're doing well. I've been reading your blog for about 4yrs and it just keeps making me smile!

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you have met someone truly wonderful, and that John approves (I almost typed "would approve," but somehow the active tense seems more appopriate).


I'm really happy for you. Thanks for sharing your journey!

Shelley

Kelli at little lovely said...

happy birthday John. whenever I read your posts, and I read nearly all of them, I just wonder how you cope. my boy/girl twins are just a few months older than m & r and I just cannot imagine having been through all you have...
I dont mean to sound down, and maybe I did, but to tell you that I am amazed by your strength.
I hope you enjoyed your Korean food, and am so happy to read that you are enjoying yourself with someone over the age of five. ;)
ps: I grew up outside of Portland, and miss it so much sometimes! I think it's great that you're back there raising m & r.

OTRgirl said...

I like that you can tell him about it and he'll be ok with it and not freaked out. That's amazing and wonderful.

What a bittersweet day.

bebelala said...

Ah, I love this post so much & love the symbolism of the timing of the date.... and I can very much relate- had a similar experience with meaningful dates and subsequently moved across country to live with my wonderful man. (Um, not just because of date coincidences, though- he has lots of wonderful qualities.) Anyway, very happy for you, Snick. :)

~ Jolene said...

Sending hugs. *sigh*

Beautifully written...

winecat said...

It's nice to see that you can handle the date coincidence with such aplomb. You have grown so much. Congratulations

Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

So lovely. I hope December was a meaningful time for you all around.

atiggerslife said...

I left you an award! http://atiggerslife.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/tell-me-about-yourself-award/

kyouell said...

I loved this post.

To the commenter that thought the children should get to honor their dad with a cake, I think that it's important that they know that he didn't enjoy cake. Everything their mom can teach them about him is important, including that he didn't want cake on his birthday.