My birthday is tomorrow. And while I’d like to post pictures of a year of champagne tomfoolery and caviar afterparties, I am decidedly not in the mood. Thirty three was a year of growing pains – sadly, without Kirk Cameron by my side, before he went all Jesus on me – and growing up. Thirty three wasn’t about gently stretching my muscles before the anticipated varsity Olympics of a third date, but instead about pulling myself up over the precipice while yelling to my companions to leave me behind. Thirty three was much fun, yes, but was more about getting stronger by being pulled on the emotional rack. When I thought my time was up and I could enjoy another 8 dollar beer at the hockey game, a puck would fly into the stands, missing the ugly, boisterous children of Row F, instead smacking me right in my orthodontia-ed kisser.
I cannot stress to you enough just how traumatic it was to pay thousands of dollars to have a surgeon intentionally remove my kid’s leg. As long as I live, I will never forget coming home to see his swaying lower belly, the golf ball of malignancy poking through his tan tummy hair. I recall thinking I was overreacting when I canceled a Nats date with Kim that night to rush him to the vet, but a week or so later, when I lay on the couch and saw him sprawled on the kitchen floor, unable to lift his head fully from the tile, I wished I too had a Fentanyl patch. “He has a cancer with tentacles,” they said. Tentacles, like calamari, only chewier and more resilient. It was a process that lasted months and guilt that has lasted much longer. I hug them both more than ever because of it. All seven legs.
I dated a good bit this year and was kissed by an awful Match.com date, both with matching levels of what experts have termed Absolutely No Success. One boy reunited with an ex-girlfriend, one didn’t make another date, one wanted to stay friends, two fell but weren’t ready for me given a certain something or someone or whatever felt good for them to toss out at that moment, another felt like he deserved only a high five, and the others didn’t register on the radar. I was smooched a good bit. Under a streetlight on Connecticut Avenue, in a bathroom line in Chinatown, by Lincoln Park on Capitol Hill, at the Metro at Gallery Place, in a car parked on the verge of H Street. Yes, Cricket, mommy is a whore. But I loved every unsuccessful minute of each of them. Even the one who kissed like a mason jar.
I also was reminded of what it is to be on the verge of falling in love. Of reaching the edge of Niagara Falls in a barrel, only your barrel has windows, allowing you to see the beauty of the water and air as you fly over the edge accompanied only by your own joyful squeals. Nothing feels as good. Nothing feels like waking up with that someone on your mind, or next to you, a groggy warm voice in your ear wishing you a good morning. Nothing compares to not just wanting, but actually doing the things you think about – whether it’s pulling your best summer skirts from the back of the closet or gently kissing his neck in front of his friends. I shiver just thinking about his hand around my waist. It’s more glorious than being bathed in M&Ms, more freeing than releasing the clasp of your bra on the ride home from work. Nothing compares. And I still cannot wait.
Over the year, this site became like a second job to me, consuming much of my thought process and my time. She also became a little like a third child to me, one I fiercely wanted to protect. Wino used to represent to me that bespectacled bee in the Blind Melon video, looking for a home in the blogosphere and some recognition for her validity. It’s why I jumped on Stacy’s back and chewed on her hair until she allowed me to be a part of Indie Bloggers. It’s why I fought the urge to consume all available Illinois wine and forced my anxious self to speak on the panel in Chicago. I’m so fucking proud of this site, of the fact that I no longer cringe when I read most of my posts, that I no longer edit out the things that will make me look freakish and unacceptable and undesirable. What you see is what you get, party people, old woman chin hairs and all. Buy me a glass of wine; if you’re lucky, I’ll pluck ‘em tableside.
And Dad. It began much like the anti-fairy tale, not so long ago but in a land far, far away, also known as the wonderland that is Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport. I’ve only been consumed by crying once before, the kind of tears that freeze a moment and may or may not shoot horizontally from your eyes. I called my mother, frustrated that she hadn’t answered a message from hospice and that I’d have to remind her yet again to place a simple call. She didn’t pick up. An hour into my layover, a cold piece of Sbarro cheese pizza and I learned that my father was in the intensive care unit 700 miles away with two lungs full of pneumonia. Because apparently his emphysema got lonely and needed a companion.
I have never felt like more of an adult – of a daughter – than I did the first night in the ICU, sending my mother home to sleep, guarding my father so he wouldn’t try to remove the array of cords the degreed ones had inserted into his every pore. There was no doubt in my mind that he would die in a matter of days. That I’d be left to figure out whether one sends such news in an email when she doesn’t want to talk about it. A tacky text message? Maybe a series of strained phone calls via a cell she already despises. I’d never felt so purposeful, so devoted, as I did attempting sleep on the floor of his room, raising my head every 30 seconds or so into his line of sight, just so he could see that I was still there. I’m still here, Dad. And I love you so very much.
I am more than ready to close the book on 33. I’m ready to stop the Pilates in favor of a milder form of life exercise, perhaps floating with a glass of chilled Pinot Grigio within reach. Full sunblock applied long before entering the water. I’ll be 34, after all.