Some years are tougher than others. Last week I was a wreck in anticipation of this coming day, my brother’s birthday. Today, I woke up early, cried, and posted some pics on Facebook. Then had a cup of coffee. My memory swam as I thought about all the things my brother has missed this year.
Every year, I type him a letter of things he would have liked and has missed since his death. When they happen, sometimes it stops me dead in my tracks and I think, “Dang, Tom would have really liked that.” I had a hard time pinpointing those thoughts this year. I even forgot to mention Aquaman! Although, I’m sure I would have been more into it than him, I think he would have appreciated Jason Momoa.
I try to prepare for my triggers. Knowing your triggers and being able to proactively deal with them in a healthy way is a positive step in mental health. Everybody has triggers. People with bipolar have BIG triggers. Tom is my trigger. Twice a year he triggers me. His birthday and the day of his death. Sometimes it weeks or days before the actual day and then the day of or just the day of. It’s hard to say.
The past nine years, I have tried to be active in remembering my brother. The first year I tried to gather his friends and our family at the Olive Garden for dinner. That didn’t turn out to well. Then I tried to skip the next year, thinking I was over it. I didn’t handle it very well. I have learned that I need to take the time to honor his memory. Each year I am different, so I respond differently to the day.
As I said, last week I was a mess but this week, I have been calm and felt ready to celebrate. I am wearing my “Aim to Misbehave!” Firefly t-shirt I bought for him this year. Several years ago, I started buying a t-shirt every year for him and wearing it the day of his birthday. We loved Firefly.
When my brother was alive, he would have me play hooky, once in a while from school. I’d call in **cough cough** sick. I’d drop the boys off at school. Tom would pick me up. We would go have breakfast. Then go get a mani/pedi somewhere fancy. I was always amazed at how Tom loved to get the works when he went into those salons. Mud masks, sugar scrubs, didn’t matter. He wanted it and made me get it too. He paid for everything. After being beautified, we would go to the movies. Depending on the time, sometimes we would movie hop and see another flick. Then we would pick up the boys and grab dinner. A full day with my brother. Just being treated like a princess. He always paid for everything. He knew I couldn’t afford it.
So today, I took the day off. Not a sick day. I’ve evolved into having actual personal leave. I went to a fantastic breakfast place with my best friend and her daughter, someone I’m lucky to call my sister and my niece. She paid for breakfast, much like my brother, she always takes care of me. I felt loved. I enjoyed a great breakfast in honor of my birthday. Something we would have done together.
Later, I went to the nail salon. I got my toes done. It’s been about 10 months since that has happened. But, if Tom was here, it would have been something we would have done today. He would have said it needed to be done. By now we would be going to this nail salon. I would have convinced him that my little Asian nail parlor is better than the costly high priced nail salon he was used to going and just as good. We would have been regulars. We would have been getting the pedicures with the hot rocks and sugar scrubs, just like I got today. Except, he would have made me get a manicure and I wasn’t into that today. But if he was there, we would have done it together.
I felt like he was with me today. I cried on and off as I listened to some Johnny Cash and Bare Naked Ladies. Some of the last music we listened together. I don’t feel dread. I don’t feel overwhelming sadness like I have in past years. I feel a lightness as I remember him. I don’t know if that is because I am taking the steps to honor his memory and actively doing these things or if it is time that has gently lifted that stone from my heart of grief.
Later tonight we will finish our celebration with diner with my folks. We regularly shared meals together. It was one of our favorite things to do as grown-ups. Tonight we will eat Thai food. Tom liked Thai food. He really liked Pinkow. That’s the first time I tried it was with him at that restaurant. He will appreciate our gathering.
I’ve cried on and off as I’ve written this. I miss my brother. My heart is still broken. But maybe not quite as shattered.