Sunday, November 20, 2016

#SOL16: Happy Birthday, Rob

What the Lark Knows (M.A. Reilly, 2010)

A blustery late autumn day unfolded. Darkness came too early as it does this time of year in the northeast.  A favorite kind of day for me--full of brisk wind that chills the very bones--lets you know that life is rarely for the timid.  I was born in November as was Rob and this evening in the quiet of our home I am thinking of my husband.  For the last 29 years, Rob and I celebrated our birthdays together. Even last year when I had to fight to get him released from the hospital so he could be home for his birthday, we celebrated. We did not know it would be his last, and looking back I can't even say what it was we did that day. I don't recall exchanging gifts and honestly the previous two months were spent in and out of hospitals and surgeries, and emergencies and near death scenarios. What I do recall was spending a lot of that first night checking on him to make sure he was still alive--that a blood clot had not traveled to his heart, to his lungs. It was his first evening home in more than three weeks and I was nervous about his care. The next day, the three of us were together and we celebrated his birthday and mine. I recall making him a blueberry pie and it has always been these simple gifts, so often made by hand, that have mattered the most.

When Rob and I learned we born a day apart, it felt like fate with her steady hand shaped our first meeting--shaped our destiny so to speak.  We were instantly attracted. I wanted to know who was this man who spoke like a poet--who laughed so easily--who could tell a tale with such ease. But it would not be simple attraction that bound us. For what we made these last three decades was less about fate and more about commitment.

Marriage is about saying yes in so many ways.


Rumi writes that he wanted:
"...a trouble-maker for a lover,
Blood spiller, blood drinker, a heart of flame,
Who quarrels with the sky and fights with fate,
Who burns like fire on the rushing sea."
And in many ways that was my husband. He was passionate as he was bold and joyful. He laughed often. Rob was committed to me and to our son in ways I never knew to doubt. And now I realize how all of that was a gift.

This year, I am remembering his birthday without him and the joy that framed our lives is soothing. I had wondered how I might feel when my own birthday arrived yesterday and oddly, it felt ordinary.  I worried that my birthday followed by Rob's would be emotionally wrenching, but that just wasn't the situation. All that talk about firsts didn't influence how I feel.  And I am ever so grateful for that bit of solace.

When the man you love beyond definition dies little makes sense.  I think here of F. Scoot Fitzgerald's description of loss. He writes that "[t]he loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly." And for months I did stare blankly as I put one foot in front of the next and lived.

About a month ago I sensed a change. Truly this was a moment of grace. I began to accept that nothing I did or didn't do would alter Rob's death. It was so suddenly clear.  My husband's death is beyond the care of my hands. The only thing I influence now is how I choose to live. And live brilliantly is what he told me to do.  And so I am.

Happy birthday, sweet man--bold heart of flame. I would marry you all over again and travel the road we made even the heartbroken journey of this last year.  You are with me Rob, always and in all ways.

...I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.”


  1. Happy Birthday to Rob. What a beautiful tribute

    1. Thank you Deb. I so appreciate your comments and your witnessing this.

  2. So beautiful. So you and Rob.
    Richie and I had birthdays three days apart. Well, ten years and three days actually. We had 31 years together.
    So much of what you write rings true for me too, as I still miss him every day. And, yes, I would marry him again and again and again, if only we could. 'Marriage is about saying yes in so many ways.' Indeed. You are brilliant and wise.
    Thank you, Mary Ann, for your courage and your generosity in sharing your heart.

    1. Thank you Maureen. 3 days apart. Rob and I were 4 years apart. When he was turning 4 here in Brooklyn, I had just been born in Ireland. Writing helps me. Im grateful I can do it. I don't look back at what I have written abut imagine a day will come when I will want to.


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