Monday, January 18, 2010

Birthday Memories

This is a picture of Michael's birthday celebration two years ago. He was three months post diagnosis, and surgery, from his brain tumor. He was a little self-conscious about still being a bit swollen from the steroids. As I look back I find that we don't have too many pictures during this period, as Michael was avoiding the camera. He was also self-conscious about the scar from the surgery. I used to tell him that I don't notice it. And when he would bring it to my attention I would kiss the scar, saying that I saw it as beautiful. That scar was evidence of how he was kept alive.

When Michael was admitted into the hospital for surgery he wanted to put it off until we returned from our cruise to Mexico. The surgeon had to let him know that one more week would cause so much swelling in his brain that he would have entered into a coma. If he didn't have the surgery he would have died within a month. Michael could be very stubborn, and kept trying to come up with ways we could go on our cruise anyway. His thinking was, if he was going to die, lets go out with a wonderful trip.

When I finally convinced Michael that I wasn't going to let him go anywhere other than the surgical room, he finally stopped with all his protesting. Of course, he was very scared, we all were. You wouldn't know it from me, I made it very clear to him that he was going to come out fine. Fine to me meant that we would deal with whatever we were presented with.

We did have lots of fun trying to decide who should go on the cruise in our place. Of course the ship left the day after he was admitted, so there was no time for anyone to get on board. This didn't stop the various nurses from competing with each other, hoping they would be the lucky one going on this cruise with hundreds of gay men.

In 2007 we spent Michael's birthday at his favorite California spot, Big Sur. We had a lovely one room cabin with a fire place. I had brought many candles from home to arrange around the room for a very romantic atmosphere. Oddly, it turned out to be a very warm January weekend. That didn't stop us from making good use of the fireplace. I laid out blankets in front of the fireplace, surrounding it all with the candles. We then popped an ice cold bottle of champagne, put on some music, and...well, we had a wonderful time.

The picture you see above was his birthday in 2008. For this birthday we had gone to the Napa Valley wine country. The hotel had a huge down feather bed, along with, you guessed it, a huge beautiful fireplace. In the bathroom was a an equally large sunk-in jacuzzi tub for two. Actually, we could probably have fit four, but it wasn't that kind of celebration. We had our choice of red or white wine, and delicious dark chocolates. That afternoon we drove to Calistoga, soaked in the mineral mud baths, and relaxed with side by side massages. We then went out to dinner, walking to one of the nearby restaurants in the freezing cold. Returning to the room afterward for a warm bath was pure pleasure.

Last year Michael and I took the kids up to Clear Lake, California, where his mother lives. It is about 2 1/2 hours north of San Francisco. The kids stayed with his mother, and we stayed at the local resort by the lake. The resort had a health spa, which we took full advantage of prior to bed time.

This year I am alone, with Michael in spirit, for his celebration. I have chosen to have a quiet day in our bedroom to feel as close as possible to him. I have had some of his favorite music playing for hours, and the room is filled with about a dozen candles burning around me. Now that the sun has gone down, I can look out our window to the garden, which is also dimly lit. All the flowers are in bloom, and our peaceful young Buddha sits quietly in the corner. If I turn down the music, I can hear the fountain gently flowing in the background. My daughter made dinner, so I didn't even have to break from my all day slumber. I did go up to eat, which was a wonderful pasta dish she created. In a short while I will climb back up the stairs to cut a slice of the cream cake covered with strawberries. It looks exactly like the cake Michael used to make. I'm sure it won't taste quite as good, as he was an excellent cook and baker. Yet, I will enjoy it knowing that it would put a big smile on Michael's face.

"Happy birthday my dear. I love you so much. Today I have been able to keep the tears to a minimum. I wanted this to be a day of reflection, and it indeed has been. I sit here on our bed, feeling the warm glow of all the candles around me. Michael, we have created a beautiful home, where we have had a beautiful life together. Again, I thank you for all the wonderful memories that I have with you. You made me so very happy."

I will not let Michael's early death tarnish what we had. I will embrace it with all my heart and soul. I will allow his love to live on within me.


  1. christ dan, you're sounding just like Abe in this post. its bittersweet. kissing the insecurities and taking care of him the way u did. i live for that type of stuff.

  2. That was quite a trip down Memory Lane, Dan. I hope that it helped you to write it down. It was an honour for me to read and share in your precious memories.

    A lot of tenderness and a post tenderly written.

    When you have a day where you feel that you weren't as good a husband as you could have been ... I'd like you to come back and read this post. PLEASE.

    Love to you,

  3. i hope remembering all you did for Michael, the past few birthdays that were planned to honor and cherish him and the love you shared with each other gives you inner strength and peace. thank you for sharing your story.

  4. You've written a beautiful love story--you each wrote that beautiful love story. The way you honored him on his birthday shows what a wonderful love you had for each other. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Just wonderful. I loved reading the final paragraph. That's how I try to live and love too.

  6. I love hearing the details of the trips you took and the bits and pieces from your life. It shows the amount of care and attention you put into celebrating your life with Michael and your family. Yes, you both created a wonderful home, relationship and marriage together.

    I always feel honored to get a glimpse of your life in this way. And I always end up feeling warm, serene and comforted. I am touched by Michael's spirit and the love you shared. You sent it out in these memories and they reached me and put a glow around my heart. Love is pretty powerful to be able to accomplish that!