Saturday, June 13, 2009

Thanks For Having Me

I love birthdays.

Traditionally, birthdays are a celebration of self and today I celebrate mine. But not in the usual way. There are no balloons, no cake and ice cream, no 29 candles, though yesterday two coworkers presented me with a bounty of gifts and well wishes. Instead, I choose to celebrate and give thanks to my mother and father for having me.

Now, I'm almost certain they didn't sit down sometime in late October and carefully calculate what it would cost to have me and how many children they were going to bring into the world. Instead, it probably had more to do with the romantic and lust-filled urgency a rainy afternoon brought. No matter why or how I came to be, it might have simply been a beautiful New York Autumn day that brought on the cadence of heart and soul sounding out measured beats.

What is important, is that my arrival was an important one to those who brought me here. So important that I have telegrams from relatives, friends and famous people across the country all saved in a photo album devoted to me.

Today, my father is gone. And my beautiful Mother's mind is gone as well. But that doesn't carry the weight it did when I first noticed her searching for words. I know that I was the apple of my father's eye and well loved by my mother. And it is still that way today.

The heartache I put my Mother through was devastating. The dreams she denied herself in service to her four children was a selfless act. And more, she did this without complaint.

I now know I was very lucky to have been born to them. While, Mom never cared for the professions I chose, she allowed me to make my choices. She wanted me to be happy and to experience the things she never would. She was all in all, a glamour girl who once auditioned for a movie role. But looking better than Lana Turner and Monroe at the time was of no help. She didn't get the gig. Still, that DNA strand settled in me and I am grateful to have that dramatic thread coursing through my veins.

Now she is 89 and when I walk in to see her after a couple of weeks away I say, "Hello, Gorgeous." and she gets it. She is the Lipstick Madonna, another strand passed on to me. Her shiny Revlon tubes go with her to the doctor, to physical therapy and dinner. She's also the first to ask, "Is anyone in need." For almost all the children have been at one time or other in dire need. Today, my response is, "No, darling, everyone is doing well," even though that isn't the case.

As for Papa, it was always his pleasure to write and tell stories. Lots of stories. And so I'm thankful to him for giving me that part of himself. He also played the piano, another musical talent we shared. I know that some of my poor decisions weighed heavily on his heart. But his most courageous act came when I asked if I could go visit a boyfriend at UVA in Charlottesville, VA. At eighteen, I was certain he would not allow such a thing. He looked at me and after a minute said without hesitation "I trust you. Yes, you can go." It was that assumption of trust that I never forgot and it imprinted on me to remain trustworthy. I wanted him to be proud of me. And no, nothing happened at the motel on the outskirts of Charlottesvile.

Destiny has a lot to do with chance. I know my future isn't a given or what I think it will be. Those choices I made and the responses from the people I admired the most, those giants in my mind, will stay with me forever. My parents were, like me, flawed. But those flaws, along with the good genetic encoding, are the very things that have made my life far more interesting and far more delicious.

Thank you, Mom. Thank you, Papa. Thanks for having me.

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