Happy Birthday, Daddy.

He would have been 67 this year. We would have eaten Pineapple Upside-Down Cake and welcomed in the new year together as a family.

New Year’s Eve has always been one of my favorite holidays.  The whole night is dedicated to celebrating the forward movement of time.  A night where it is socially acceptable to eat appetizers for dinner, drink a bottle of champagne by yourself, and then light shit on fire.

But it’s more than just fun, NYE is about having hope for the future.

As a child, I loved watching the ball drop in New York City, through means of television  of course.  On December 31, 1999, I was 7 years old.  I vividly remember being disappointed that my parents had pooped out after dad’s birthday party.  They couldn’t quite made it to midnight to celebrate the big “Y2K”.  So after they were asleep, I sneaked out of bed to watch Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve Special while sitting in our old, wooden rocking chair about four inches away from the TV screen.  Being a relatively sheltered child, I was mesmerized by the how many people could fit into Times Square. I remember rocking excitedly as men and women in fancy, sparkling clothes danced and drank and laughed in the night clubs.  They were shameless in front of the cameras. Everyone on the screen looked so insanely happy and energized by being in the same place at the same time to celebrate the same moment together. I put it on my bucket list right then, before I even knew what a bucket list was.

Fast forward 10 years and I was more than ready to say good riddance to 2009.  It was the first year that we didn’t have a birthday to celebrate.  I wanted to be anywhere but  the emptiness that was our home at the time.  Luckily, I had the perfect excuse to leave -my high school boyfriend’s parents were out of town for the holidays leaving him alone to guard the house. Naturally, we decided to throw a party.  I was often the go-to source for supplying alcohol, but along with procurement came the responsibility of preparing the drinks for my friends.  I always made sure the drinks were never too strong, just enough to have a little fun. We had been planning the event for over a month and when the night came everything was in order. I had a distraction from my grief and the night was just as I pictured.

Except that this time, I was the one who didn’t quite make it to midnight. Around 10:30 or so, I remembered what day it was. I remembered that my dad wasn’t here and and it was his birthday and I was drunk and OMG what was I doing?? So naturally, I panicked. Panic attacks came often that winter and I hadn’t learned how to cope with them yet. My boyfriend at the time was absolutely no help.  The narcissistic that he was, wanted the party to go perfectly.  Being far from perfect in that point of my life, I felt the need to leave so I wouldn’t ruin everyone else’s night.  I wanted to literally run away but home was too far. I couldn’t drive, so I called my brother. Even today, I am so thankful that he understood why I needed to leave.  He understood that even though he was at another party too, he was still my big brother and I needed him. There are many times that I have felt let down or disappointed by him, but he has always been there in those moments when I would have called dad. So I left the party and went home and cried myself into 2010.

In the morning, my boyfriend called me, completely pissed off that I left him to host the party alone. After I had left our mutual friend decided to take over bar tending duty.  Attempting to impress everyone, he made the drinks toxic-strong.  Considering that most of our friends barely drank and were also about 100 pounds or less, just about everyone got shit-faced and threw up over my boyfriend’s entire house. And can you guess who he blamed?  Moi.  Feeling responsible, I came over and helped him clean up until he forgave me. Needless to say, he was an asshole who made a shitty day even worse.

The bitter taste of December 31st remained on my tongue for years after.

Five years later, December 31, 2014, was the happiest I had ever been thus far. A good friend of mine had a small get-together at a beautiful apartment downtown Ann Arbor. We made mimosas and ate jello shots and impulsively decided that Molly should come to the party too!  It was my first time meeting Molly, and I have yet to see her again, but I instantly loved her. She made me feel alive and full of love. I couldn’t stop talking and the only place I wanted to look was in the eyes of every person in the room.  That night I thought I was with the love of my life and I thought we were starting the most exciting year of our lives together.  It was supposed to be the year that I left this town.  It was supposed to be the year that we finally lived together and built something real. Shortly before midnight the love and the laughter became a bit too overwhelming for him.  He came to me with panic in his eyes, so we stepped out into the hallway to take a breath. In the hallway we had the quiet to be alone in, to just be us.  I remember wrapping my arms around his neck and holding his head into me until he calmed down. I remember looking over his shoulder and into a mirror in the corner of the hallway.  Seeing us from above, I  remember having so much hope for our future. I was so filled with blind happiness that I never saw the end coming.

But the next day we felt worse than horrible. When I woke up, I thought for sure I was dead. My head felt like it had been cracked into two and my mouth was desperately dry. My jaw was clamped shut and we slept the entire day. We tried to convince ourselves that it had all been worth it and honestly looking back I wouldn’t change a thing. I just wish I hadn’t been so naive in thinking that the high would last forever.

The next year my now ex-boyfriend went to New York City to celebrate the new year with his also new girlfriend.  He fulfilled my bucket list without me.  After moping around and falling into the all-too-hairy arms of a rebound, I realized that I had wasted so much my time waiting to be rescued. To give up so much of myself only to hope to be saved like the damsel in the stories.  So I said, “Fuck it!”  I decided that 2016 was going to be the year where I stopped playing the victim and instead, I rescued my goddamn self. 2016 would be the year that I stopped letting men and their idiotic choices and over-inflated egos define my happiness. Surrounded by friends and family supporting me, I decided that I would live the next 365 days for me. That was the year where I chose to only do things that made me happy and I stopped worrying what everyone else thought.  New Year’s Resolutions were a natural answer.

One. Delete Facebook. I found that the people who still cared about my life were just as easy to reach through the phone. I also truly believe there that nothing healthy comes from constant comparison.

Two. Join the gym and run again. My legs were itching to be stretched and my soul needed a new space. Running had been part of my identity since the age of 9 and I was still kicking myself for giving it up for previously mentioned high school boyfriend.

Those two steps were so small, but they were everything.

Those two steps led me first to myself.  I found that my legs had been waiting for me, ready to work hard.  I found that my lungs were tired, but they rejoiced at the first breath of cold, fresh air. I found my voice growing steady and my heart beginning to heal.  For the first time in a long time, it felt right to be me.

But those two steps also led me to him.  To a man who I never felt indebted to because he didn’t define me.  A man who never made me question who I was or what I wanted in life. A man who was my equal from the start, who never made me feel less than.  A man that I never felt that I needed, but instead that I wanted.

The following December we traveled to Chicago together to ring in 2017. I felt loved every second that he was by my side, but equally happy when I was by myself.  I know when it comes to healing, time has been on my side.  I can now remember the days of pineapple upside-down cake and smile.  I can share memories of my dad with him and I see the same patience in his eyes. I can remember all that my dad had done for me and my family and I can be proud instead of sad.  It has taken me so long to realize that my father truly did raise a strong, independent woman.

I am also proud to say that this year we will be ringing in the new year as husband and wife.

And I know my dad would have loved him.

 

Happy Birthday, Daddy!

And Happy New Year to the rest.

 

 

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The Good Ones.

My definition of a good partner is one who will take the stinky trash out at the end of the night.  He’ll be shimmying into his shoes so good.  Doing the dirty work for his family.  Even in our apartment complex where he has to walk it all the way to the dumpster.

See that is honor to me.  And the willingness to take on that honor?

That, my love, is grace.

But a good one will also help you carry the heavy.  And I mean more than just the groceries and the luggage and the moving boxes.  I mean the heavy on days when your heart has sunk and you are exhausted from the weight of living.  When it feels like you are trapped under a thick, wet blanket and you are trying to breathe through a straw.  Once you start looking, it is easy to understand why we all are so drained; this world is riddled with mean and sad. While too many sad say goodbye, there is no good that comes of mean, only sad or more mean.

I believe this is why my heart would only settle for the most kind.  It had seen enough sad, and enough mean, to know when it had finally seen the good.  The happy, the peaceful, the kind.  He is truly the kindest man I know, aside from my father. And that means everything to me.

He also takes out the trash.

Time Just Happens.

I have always been in a hurry to grow up.

To get to the next thing via checks on a list.

To get through the next semester, the next month, week,

and today, well even just the day.

Sometimes time flew by so fast I felt cheated, but sometimes it dragged on until I begged it to stop completely.

And I, in between it all, forgot how to look at the present.

I was so worried about what time was wasted and what time was waiting.

I forgot that that time just happens.

and still, I am simultaneously overwhelmed by how much time I have lost

and how much time I have left.

 

My brothers and I.

When looking back at old childhood photos, what I love most is our facial expressions.

The smiles are big for a reason.

We are each looking at,

no,

smiling at, and being loved by,

our father. And our father makes us laugh.

The Word “Perfect” Can Also Mean “Whole”.

For my 24th birthday, he took me to a Detroit Tigers baseball game. It was my first game of the season so naturally I had been babbling excitedly to my coworkers all afternoon.  The ladies of the office peeked out the window trying to catch a glimpse of my new man as he pulled up to to the building.  Knowing we were being watched, I met him outside with a quick kiss. We hopped in the car and onto the freeway, all smiles and anticipation. As we hit rush hour traffic on 94, he convinced me to open my birthday presents.  I was a little embarrassed but also slightly anxious.  I hate opening any sort of present in front of other people, especially when I actually care about them.  I was twice as nervous because I have a long history of poor-gift-giving boyfriends and I’ve found that I am truly terrible at hiding my disappointment.  Don’t get me wrong, I try hard to not be materialistic or high maintenance, but society tells us that birthdays are magical and presents are sure to only contain everything we ever wanted.  As I prepared myself for artificial enthusiasm, I found that I had nothing to fake.  From the Heather grey Old English Detroit hoodie right down to the Haribo gummy bears.  Everything was the baby bear of Goldilocks: right color, right size, right emblem, right texture. I would have picked each item out myself and we’d only been dating a month!  How the hell did this guy know me so well?? (Answer: HE PAID ATTENTION.  Imagine that!)

In the parking lot outside the stadium, a peddler was trying to wash the car windows.  The man called out “Now that’s a beautiful car!” while ducking his head down to see me through the driver side window. He called out again, “AND a beautiful lady!”  MP gripped my hand and said, “I know, right?  Forget about the car!” *Swoon*

Walking into the stadium, I was proud to be on his arm.  (Actually… scratch that.  I was proud to have him on my arm!  This is 2018 after all!)  He was polite and conversational and knew exactly what to say in the awkward situations that normally made me want to run away or hide. Somebody better yell “Timber” because this girl is F A L L I N G.

Settled into our nosebleed seats with our ice cold “summer” shandies, we tried to pretend like it wasn’t 40 degrees in the middle of April.  We cuddled under a blanket eating Cracker Jack and peanuts.  Being the true gentlemen that he was, he even gave me the sticker prize inside – a 3-D cartoon of a beastly ball player over a cutout of home plate with the words “Go ahead, throw the curve.”

My feet were freezing, but at least the Tigers were winning.  We booed the bad calls and cheered for home runs. But mostly we danced and laughed to each walk up song.

We toughed it out for the 7th inning stretch only because it would feel criminal not to. But as soon as that music ended, we made a b-line to the car, practically running down the never-ending ramp out of the ballpark. We blasted the heat once we got in the car, shivering and laughing at the limitations of our own bodies.

Driving home, I studied his face as he studied the road.  For some reason, I found his  profile even more attractive under the freeway lights. He looked so serious and stoic, but very soft and kind as well.   I held his hand as we listened to the rest of the game on the radio. I traced letters into his palm during the play-by-play, assuming that he was too focused on the road to read what I was writing.

{iloveyou. ILOVEYOU. ILoveYou. YOU.}

I wasn’t ready to say the words aloud, but I had been feeling them for days. I remember thinking to myself:

“You are exactly what I want, what I need. You are every check on my list. Oh my gosh you are the one.”

It sounded crazy and felt like it way too soon, but… when you know, you know, and I knew.

I fell asleep on his arm, still holding his hand the rest of the way home.

Sleepy from the travel and cold air, we walked downstairs to his room. We were both beyond ready for bed.  Yet again, he had another surprise waiting for me. A dozen roses and a hexagon shaped box. I was already overwhelmed with happiness and gratitude from the evening. I didn’t even open the present (which turned out to be a handmade Edison lamp!) or even smell the roses.  My heart was so full of love and the feeling of being treated right that I needed him, right then, right there.   I needed to let him know how perfect this was, how perfect he was.  I had been waiting for this perfect for so long that I didn’t want to wait another second. And let’s be real, my favorite way to say thank you to a man often leaves us both out of breath and undressed.

Afterwards, he held my face in his hands. Our legs tangled, hearts racing.  He looked me in the eye and said, “There’s something I want to say that I’ve been wanting to say for a while now.”

My knee-jerk reaction was to shush him. I even put my finger to his lips, because I was convinced that I was not ready to hear what he was about to say.

I was scared that I was not ready to say the word “too.”

Instead of holding back, he ignored my hesitation, held me closer and whispered in my ear, “Maggie, I’m in love with you.”

Go ahead, throw the curve.

I am not sorry.

I am not sorry

for speaking my mind.

I am not sorry

for expressing my feelings.

I am not sorry.

Sometimes people will not like what you have to say.  They will expect you to stay silent, or even worse – they will expect you to agree with every word that they speak.  They will not expect you to have an opinion or to voice your frustration, even when you are trying to better the situation.  Even if you are soft spoken and calm.  Sometimes people will be offended that you dare to call them out on their behavior or disagree with their opinion.  And if they do not like what you have to say, they may be mean, shut you down, or freeze you out with the coldest shoulder you’ve ever know.  They may be stubborn, waiting for you to repent.

But my love, do not apologize!

If they are too petty to listen, then they do not deserve to hear what you have to say.

They are not worth your breath.

Do not apologize, my love.

For you have done nothing wrong.

I am here.

Love is continuing to call even when you get sent to voicemail.

Today, yesterday, last week.

It is so easy to stop reaching out when you feel there are no hands reaching out in return.

You may be busy, overwhelmed, or avoiding life.

But I will keep calling until you have the time for me.

I don’t expect a call back, yet I hope that you will.

For now, I will keep calling until you are ready to face life together.

Today, tomorrow, next week.

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