On the occasion of my sister’s 50th birthday — were she still alive — I was up in San Francisco with my friend. I really struggled with the fact that sister should be celebrating her big milestone birthday with the world who loved her, and that, sadly, I would be celebrating it without her. She loved celebrations and would have made a big old deal out of it. Lots of parties and friends.
We enjoyed some yummy cheesecake in her honor from the Cheesecake Factory no less, but that wasn’t quite enough. As the near Queen of present-giving, it just felt so wrong to let her birthday go by without gifts. I was uncomfortable, awkward, grieving all over again. And then a brilliant idea came to me. I would celebrate Rosie’s birthday by buying presents for myself. (I highly recommend that to anyone dealing with a tough anniversary.) It was so much fun and turned what would have been a rather somber occasion into quite the shopping spree.
It’s that time again and Rosie would have turned 53 in the coming days. I was in the city again with my friend and my sister was on my mind. I caught sight of a cream macramé bag she would have love-loved. I know this because she had once asked me to track down one for her and bring it over to Turkey. I had managed the request in the end, but the one I eventually delivered was nothing like the beauty I was admiring in the store.
I reviewed the price tab and hummed and hah-ed over this repeat of my “let’s celebrate Rosie’s birthday without Rosie” shenanigan, my own justification for buying myself something I shouldn’t. I saw the bag twice more on two separate occasions in two separate locations of the same shop and told myself that Rosie was telling me she wanted that bag and I had better get it for her. I bought the bag and the actual price was $10 less than the sticker price. “Thanks, Bud!” I said to just myself.
“Look! I bought myself a bag for Rosie’s birthday!” I exclaimed to my friend, who totally gets me and my ways. “Oh, that is very Rosie,” she replied, and I went on to tell her the macrame bag story. She liked it a lot. I felt so much better about Rosie’s birthday after that.
Grief is such an endless journey that we have to adopt whatever techniques that speak to us to get through those difficult days in any given calendar year. This year was the first since she passed that I actually got the holiday boxes down from the attic and went through said boxes, selecting a few ornaments to put on our tiny living tree.
I was not exactly spared any trauma in this regard, since I had completely forgotten that Rosie had given me the new year sparkly glasses from her last New Year’s Eve party on the planet. They popped out of the box at me like a clown’s surprise. My husband told me my face went white and I had to sit down.
All of a sudden, I didn’t want to do ornaments anymore. I was back in the room of their home in the Turkish mountains, laughing, drinking red wine with everyone, eating turkey and playing funny games for prizes with our sparkly glasses on. Time stopped for me in that moment.
And that happens, as you slowly journey through grief and get inevitably tripped up along the way. I finally bucked up and made a lovely fireplace ornament out of the sparkly glasses with multi-colored lights and glass balls. It was the most beautiful new tradition, and I think I will repeat that every year in her honor.
Some people are able to move on swiftly when a loved one passes. For many, 4.5 years would be enough to become accustomed to your new life without that person; for me it is honestly like waves on a beach. Some days are better than others, the seas are calmer. Other days, especially on an anniversary, birthday or holiday, I have had to adopt new ways of managing my feelings or sorrow and not being a Debbie Downer for everyone else.
Some people, to my astonishment, don’t even recall key dates from their loved one’s life and I always find that incredible. I am not “blessed” with that type of memory. I remember every date and carry that person along with me through the day and out the other side.
If you are like me and you know you get tripped up by emotional remembrances of a loved one, do yourself a favor. Eat the cheesecake, enjoy the sparkly glasses all over again, and be sure to buy yourself that coveted macrame bag.
Another Rosie story is under production as we speak. “The Soup Diaries” is a compilation of emails from November 1999 to April 2000, when Rosie and her friends were living in London, brand new apartment owners and all loving the freedom of their own front doors, their friendships, their dinners together and the launch of the Internet that was to change everyone’s world.
“The Soup Diaries” will soon be available on Amazon.com and from the author. Rosie so wanted the emails made into a book — or, actually, in true Rosie-style, she wanted them made into a movie — she had even picked out the names of the movie stars who would play each one of them. We’ll see if I can make that happen in addition to publishing the book. The parts of the past are worth preserving, in my opinion, however small a slice.