To my Dude on his 36th Birthday…

When I started writing this, I immediately launched into a long winded sob fest thinking of the millions of ways I miss you. It was twelve paragraphs of how hard life is without you, and of how desperately sad I am that we won’t grow old together. That every time I see other fathers with their kids, I feel sucker punched on behalf of our kids, who were thoroughly ROBBED of a Daddy who loved them. But then I decided that, in spite of the fact that all those things are true, in spite of how I wish I could sleep through today and wake up in a week, in spite of the fact that I could fill a BOOK, let alone a blog post with how shitty it is that you aren’t here, today is your birthday. There will be many days ahead for me to write that post. I’ll have countless opportunities to share my mourning for you…but today, today is a day, that instead, I will do my best to toast to you. 

A toast to the seventeen year-old you that stole my heart. Who took me to a Billy Joel concert as my first Christmas gift, and held my hand through She’s Got a Way. Who I had all my first and most ridiculous arguments with. 

A toast to college-aged you. Who I experienced my most fun and most awful nights of drinking with. Who I broke up with when I was drunk, because you ate my Cluck-U chicken wings, and you had to remind me the next morning. I don’t think we’ve ever laughed so hard. It’s genuinely anyone’s guess how we made it through college. We used to say we loved each other too much to give up, even when we probably should have. You, who with our two best friends, stood in front of a keg at a basement party to hide it and keep it all for ourselves. You, who took a beach excursion with your friends and came home, all of you singing Drops of Jupiter in funny voices for weeks. You, the beer pong champ. You, my dance partner through every cover song at The Stone Balloon on Thursday nights and every ’80s song at Kate’s on Saturdays. You, who I experienced every growing pain with, while we figured out who we were going to be in life.

Twenty-two year-old you. Who landed a job right out of college, and got to experience the Cowboy days before companies went corporate. Who got high with his bosses and called me from his parents’ bathroom floor. Who wandered around Manhattan, having new adventures every week, and called me with excitement at the end of every night. Who had bloody Mary’s at his desk on Friday mornings to cure Thursday night’s hangover.  Who included me in on his adventures, introducing me to some of the most fun and funniest people, some of who I am still friends with, now. 

Twenty-three year-old you, who got down on one knee and told me you wanted to share a life that felt like a never ending vacation. Twenty-five year-old you, who was so nervous on our wedding day that he thought he lost his jacket, but was all the while wearing it. Who spent the whole next summer preparing beeritas for everyone in our beach house every weekend, who lived for Bud Bingo and sunny, sandy Saturdays in Manasquan. 

You, who I experienced the pride and pitfalls of owning homes with. Who I shared beach vacations, late nights, early mornings, and sleepy weekends with. Who drunkenly flew his sister out to Vegas to meet us on her birthday, because we won at blackjack. Who loved gambling with a vodka tonic in his hand. Who loved trying weird new foods at fancy restaurants, and wearing sports jackets. Who loved golf, despite being terrible at it (your words, not mine). Who never knew the words to songs, but would try to sing them anyway. You, who I spent many a night in our basement playing guitar hero with (sometimes until it was morning!), or playing with your beloved shuffleboard table. 

You who loved your family immensely. Who rarely missed a Sunday dinner. Who listened to your Mom (and not me) so much, that I knew when I needed something done, I had to tell your mother (and you’d always get mad at me after…but it really worked, every time!). Who always aspired to make his parents proud in life (and succeeded). 

You, who held my hand through two early miscarriages, through my Dad passing away; who flew to Florida to help me clean out his apartment after he was gone. You, who got me a necklace from Tiffany when I was pregnant with Cameron, as a gift of confidence that “this one will stick.” Your face will forever be etched in my mind the first time we ever heard her heartbeat on the ultrasound. The look of total disbelief that there was a living thing in there that belonged to us. 

You, who sat beside me while I was in labor, who held my hand as I brought her into the world, who cried next to me as we heard her cry. You who rocked her to sleep every night to Kean. You who read her bed time stories every night when she was older, and cuddled her to sleep before coming to bed. You, who rushed me to the hospital as fast as you could when I was having Benny, who told me I wasn’t doing my breathing (and got an earful from me!). Who I spent the most blissful nine days with, in pure heaven before we knew something was wrong. Who continued to live as normally as possible through treatments, another baby you adored, ups, downs, ins and outs. Who spent four and a half years doing everything he could to stay positive, to stay present, to stay here. 

They say that it’s not the years in your life that matter, but the life in your years. I like to think that, in spite of the fact that your life was cut so short, that you lived a beautiful thirty-five years. You have amazing, loyal friends. The same friends you played t-ball with, and shared beers with in college served as your groomsman, and those same men carried you to your resting place. You had the unwavering love and support of your family; who stood by you, who did literally anything they could possibly do for you. They continue to support me and our babies. And I really hope to think that I gave you some life in those years as your partner. You most definitely put life in mine. Three of them, actually. As our man, Billy Joel, sang, “We lived through a lifetime, and the aftermath…” Today, on your birthday, I owe you more than my tears. I owe you my gratitude. Thank you, my dude. Thank you for putting SO much life into the short years we had together. We had more love in those years than many get in a one-hundred-year lifetime. 

When I moved back in last week, I found one last Brooklyn beer in the back of the pantry. I’ll be drinking it today, in your honor. 

As for the rest of you reading this, I’d love so much to see you share a toast of your own, a happy memory of Kenny to share with the world to honor his birthday. It would really make my day. Thank you, and cheers <3