Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Zack's 27th birthday is tomorrow. Twenty-seven . . . places you on the early end of your late twenties which, honestly, still sounds older to me than I have any business being. Luckily, I've got a year and a half to go before that existential crisis.

Tonight we went out for a family dinner to celebrate Zack (We couldn't go tomorrow because my MOM is going to HANA with my BROTHER, but that's another story and clearly I'm above being bitter). While we were out, I kept looking at this man across the table from me (to clarify: it was Zack), thinking about what it must have been like for his parents to hold him when he was born, for him to start elementary school and play football in junior high and start college in Santa Barbara and get married. The parents who knew him from the day he was born until now, who have loved him so dearly, who have become such wonderful in-laws . . . what is it like to see your child grow up?

I don't know what it's like, but I do know that times like this make me feel exceptionally nostalgic. When we woke up this morning, I told Zack that it was his last day of being twenty-six. He shrugged it off pretty quickly--it's just another day.

My mom always used to say that to me on the day before my birthday, reminding me that another year had passed and I was moving on to a new and unknown stage of life. Neurotic kid that I was, it used to kind of freak me out. What had I done with my life at 9? At 12? Couldn't I have done more? Look at Haley Joel Osment, I would think, he's a star!

I would get so mad at my mom for saying this -- not because of my neuroses, though they existed, but because I am such an intensely nostalgic person that the thought of any time of life slipping away is enough to make me tear up and wish for the days when everything was simpler. (When that was, I don't know.) Even at 11 and 12 years old, I would regret that I had to gain another year, would wish that I could stay the age that I was forever. As I moved on to college and four years of uncertainties, that sense deepened all the more.

Now I see the lovely parts of moving on, of getting older, of going through life experiences that enrich and bolster us and give us a wealth of knowledge to draw on. This is good. But there will always be something about the past, about the way things were, that calls to me in its way. The falling asleep in the backseat of the car, flushed and mouth open, getting carried into the house on a warm southern California night. The fireflies signaling the arrival of the evening in Hoffman Estates, the drive to Kaitlin's house on White Willow Bay, the things that I will never do again, at least never in the same way, the things that used to be as familiar as my face in the mirror or the back of my hand, things I can still retrace behind my eyelids but the outline is all that remains. I want those things back, now. I want the feelings that they made me feel, but have to take what I have -- the memory that still lingers, the sounds and smells and sights that trigger what the past-tenses remind me. What was, what I knew, what I had, who we were.

So, happy birthday Zack. Thank you for living in this moment and teaching me about the sweet beauty that I can only find now. And while I celebrate that with you, I celebrate who you have been, what you have learned, what you have known, and how you are becoming even more the best man I know.

(P.S. - In case you were wondering, it looks like Haley Joel was arrested for a DUI and drug possession, starred in a Broadway play with Cedric the Entertainer, and graduated from Tisch. Don't say you weren't curious.)


Roy said...

I'd go to Hana before Zack's birthday party, too. But then I wasn't invited to Zack's birthday party.

Anonymous said...

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