Dear sweet Jonah,
I’ve dreaded the arrival of this day for quite some time now. February 14, 2011. Your birthday. And Valentine’s Day (a convergence we always adored). You’re supposed to be twenty-one.
First legal drink and all that. I was really looking forward to taking you out for your birthday dinner and a drink, not because you’d relish finally being able to look a waiter in the eye and ask for a Rolling Rock rather than sneaking one in the dorm, but because you detested alcohol and wouldn’t really have known how to celebrate this day.
Just like your old man, who also never cared for alcohol but who would very happily (giddily, in fact) have taken you out and even downed a brew (tried to, at least) right along with you. How fun that would have been. A moment for us to remember for all time.
Instead, here it is, your twenty-first birthday, and you’re not here to celebrate it. Your calendar ceased advancing almost two years ago, so that, twenty-one years after your birth, you’re still nineteen. You always will be.
There’s a beauty to that, of course. I learned this from a gentleman at temple whose brother died when they were both young, and who describes how, even though he’s in his late-70s, the dreams he has of his brother are always of a young man in his 20s. Nowadays, he loves that. Of course, he’s had fifty years to get used to the idea. I’ve only had two.
Frankly, I still wish your calendar was advancing. And I can’t help but wonder: How long would your hair be today? Would you have a beard? Would your clothes still be too big? What necklace would you be wearing? Would black-and-white checkerboard squares still describe your hat?
I don’t know what it means to wish you happy birthday, Jonah. But if you still exist in some other-dimensional form, I hope it’s a happy day to be sure. Around here, it’s only a little bit clearer what today is about. You are very much on your loved ones’ minds, family and friends (who still miss you deeply) alike. And in one way or another, we’re each toasting your name, each raising a glass to the wonder that was you, shedding tears because we can’t give you a great big birthday hug, and heading off into our day, forever enriched by the time that we did get with you.
Loving you forever,