It’s my birthday today, but you knew that. I’m in Fresno for a couple depositions, so if you tried to call this morning, you would have gotten my voicemail. You’d say “Arrow, this is the Dad,” and make a joke about there being something important going on today. Then, you’d say happy birthday and sign off like we always signed off to each other. You would almost always call (the few times you couldn’t were usually when you were out in the field or Korea); I never had to fear you’d forget.
After I got done with the deposition, I’d look at my phone and see I missed your call. I would actually listen to your voicemail rather than just calling you back immediately like I usually do. I would laugh at the joke and smile because your voice would be so happy and will remind me how much you love me and how much I love you.
I would call you back as I was walking to the hotel. You’d answer with another “ARROW!” and a “Happy Birthday!” I’d tell you where I was at. And that I got a new phone because of the weird battery issue I had the other day. (You’d ask why I didn’t just get a new battery and I would tell you my reasons and you’d chastise me, but would accept the result.)
You would probably be on the way “to the Mom’s,” after stopping by the Commissary. Say something about a computer issue at work, and not having enough time to get everything done. You’d tell me that we were still waiting on the inspection for the license of “your house.” I’d ask if you got the sprinkler system fixed yet because someone ran over one of the sprinkler heads and that was the next thing on your envelope “to do” list.
“Hey, so do you get to watch the Patriots pre-season game tonight,” you’d ask. No, I’d reply, probably not. “Did you want to use my GamePass? I get those.” No, I’ll just watch the Olympics and do some work in the hotel room; are the Seahawks playing? “Yeah. The Vikings, I think. Cowboys next week. Hope your Patriots can hold on until Brady’s back so we can beat you at the Super Bowl.” Yeah yeah yeah.
If we were still talking by the time you got to Mom’s, there would be a small complaint about the garage door not opening after pressing the button. It’d take a few tries, but you’d get it. You’d walk into the house, making your way to the kitchen and find mom preparing lunch. You’d hand the phone to her and say it was me. Then you would go back to the car to get what you couldn’t carry while juggling the phone. If I was lucky, you’d get back before Mom hung up and I would get to say “I love you” to you and one last poke.
I’d have two birthday cards waiting for me in my mailbox when I got home tomorrow. They’d both be funny ones; you probably laughed as you did when you picked them out. You would call on Saturday from Mom’s phone because you were driving her somewhere, just to make sure that I got home okay.
We would talk like we always talked, which would be enough. Even now, it would be enough to change how I feel today. Because it’s been six weeks without your phone calls and the first birthday without you.
Maybe, one day, I’ll only remember what used to be rather than what isn’t. And maybe one day, I’ll trick myself into remembering this phone conversation rather than what really was.
I miss you. I love you.