It’s an odd week here at LivingSmall — September 11 rolls around once again and I can’t help but remember calling Patrick, who was in the truck on his way to work. He hadn’t wanted to wake me up before he left, just after the first plane hit. We were on the phone together when the first tower fell. Seeing all the footage makes me miss him. He was the person I knew I could call any time, and we all need that person in our lives, the one we know we can pick up the phone when something happens. But on 9/11, it was my cousin I worried about. Elizabeth and Alan had just been married that spring, and I all I knew was he worked in finance — I didn’t know if he was in the buildings. Terrified she’d been widowed, I finally got through to their apartment where Alan, who had just walked home through the jumpers thought, because our voices are so similar, that I was Elizabeth on the phone. It was not me Alan wanted to talk to that morning, and it made me weep to hear in Alan’s voice how much he loves my cousin. Elizabeth, it turns out, had been on the plane from Bangor to Boston that morning with all the terrorists, and it took her three days to get back to New York — it wasn’t until a few weeks later that she let us all know she was pregnant — a small ray of hope in that dark fall. Change goes on, and now there’s two more redheads, Nina, and her baby sister Lucia in the world with us.
It’s an odd week here at LivingSmall because it’s both my brother Patrick’s birthday, and the MH’s birthday — today for the MH, tomorrow for Patrick. It’s a coincidence that sort of freaked me out when I discovered it. We were having coffee, and I was reading my horoscope and asked the MH when his birthday is. “September 12,” he said. “You’re kidding,” I answered. “No,” he said. “Why?” But then it came to seem like a nice thing —
I never thought I’d have anything to celebrate this week again.
Sitting here at my kitchen table I can see the fishing waders I bought
for Patrick that last birthday, the ones he only wore a couple of
times, the ones that have been hanging on that nail in my mudroom for
three years. I’ve tried to shift any memorialization to this day, not
that dark day two weeks from now that marks the accident that killed
him. I sent my mother flowers, and those of us who celebrated Patrick’s
last birthday together have, the past couple of years, met to raise a
glass. But no matter how I cut it, it’s still very sad, and while my
current happiness is lovely and sustaining and real, it’s also separate
from and sits beside this ongoing sorrow. I miss my brother, the person
I knew best in this world, the person who knew and loved me absolutely.
But, life goes on, change happens, friendships change and
re-constellate, and so today I’m making a birthday cake for someone
new. I’m making my favorite cake, the one from Dom DeLuise’s fabulous
cookbook: Eat This…It’ll Make You Feel Better!
It’s a yellow cake, with fruit in the middle, frosted with sweetened
whipped cream and Dom is right, this cake will make you feel better.
It’s a good cake. It’s good to have a birthday to celebrate. And even
if moving on is a tiny bit painful, like cracking open some protective
skin I’ve grown these past couple of years, it feels good. I wouldn’t
have believed it three years ago, and I fought anyone who suggested
that I’d come to this place, this place where I want to move forward,
this place where I am ready to move back into the world again, but
nonetheless, it’s good to be arriving here, on this far shore of my
grief, good to be getting out of the boat, and back onto dry land