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.