Kim would have been fifty-six today.
I always woke up early on Kim’s birthday – I don’t know why.
I’d look over at her sleeping. I wouldn’t notice the bite-plate she wore because she ground her teeth at night, her snoring, or that her roots were grey again.
I’d just see Kimmy another year older, still as cute as the day I married her, sleeping as peacefully as can be.
I’d roll back over and grab my phone and check my email. I’d check the time once more and snooze a bit.
Just before seven I’d feel her moving. I’d look over and she’d be sitting up, her feet on the ground, stretching before getting out of bed.
“Happy Birthday Kimmy,” I’d say.
She’d reach back and put her hand on my arm and pat it.
“Thank you, honey,” she’d say.
The most intimate moments that I remember since her death aren’t the deeply passionate ones. The moments I remember are these simple, every-day, reassuring, seemingly meaningless, routine moments.
The cup of coffee in the morning, the hand on the arm, the knowing eye-roll.
Kim would head off to the bathroom and come back without her bite-plate.
I’d offer to make coffee.
“No thanks,” she’d say, “I’ll make it.”
My coffee was fine.
Hers was always better.
The dog would be pushing her to the door. The two of them would head downstairs.
I’d head for the bathroom and pause a bit before going downstairs. I’d left Kim’s card next to the coffee grinder the night before.
We made each other birthday cards. Usually there were cartoons containing imaginary scenes between us. By the time I got downstairs the card was on the dining room table – her way of letting me know she’d read it.
What? No gift?
No, usually a couple of weeks before our anniversary, Christmas, or our birthdays Kim would check with me. “You didn’t getting me anything this year yet did you?”
Most years I would answer, “not yet.” Some years I’d say, “something small.”
If it was something small then she’d get me something small in return. If it was nothing yet, she’d say, “good.”
We didn’t need more stuff. Generally, when we wanted something, we would go out and get it. But mainly we didn’t need gifts just for the sake of having something to give or get.
Usually, we had a trip coming up. She’d say “London is my present.”
We didn’t have that conversation this year but I’m sure she would have said “Spain is my present.”
We were supposed to go to Spain next week.
The conference organizers were so nice and understanding. They understood that I wouldn’t be able to go and they also absorbed the cost of cancelling my travel despite my offers to take care of it.
And today is Kim’s birthday.
She would have been fifty-six.
I woke up early. Earlier than most years.
I looked over at her pillow.
It’s not that I thought she’d be there. But what if she were?
Man, I really miss her.
Kim never knew how old she was. It’s not that she was in denial, it was just that she never knew. Just a couple of weeks ago she turned to me and said, “I’m fifty-three.”
“You are not. You were born in 1960,” I said.
“It makes it easy,” I’d try to explain. “You know you’re in your fifties. The year ends in a 6. This year you’re turning 56.”
“So you’re fifty-five. You’re going to be fifty-six next month.”
Except that she never will be fifty-six any more than Elena will ever be seven.
Kim’s accident and death happened about midway between our wedding anniversary and her birthday.
I stayed in bed until about six this morning.
I sat up and rested my feet on the floor.
The dog wandered over and wormed her head under my arm. I petted her.
It’s another one of those intimacies from a long relationship but it isn’t the same.
I returned from the bathroom and took the dog downstairs, let her out, and fed her.
It’s Kimmy’s birthday and I’m making my own damn coffee.
Hers was always better.