The Birthday Without the Puking and the Screaming

Happy birthday beloved, friend, partner in dumbass parenting. Do you know how hard it is to arrange 39 candles on a German chocolate Bundt cake?

I’ve been trying to think about what to say to Jon on his birthday, something I wouldn’t say to him on father’s day or on our anniversary or at any other time. This rules out any form or variation of “thank you,” “I’m sorry,” or “please forgive me,” because he hears one or all of these things from me approximately every 15 minutes.

I like to tease Jon about how much older he is than I am, and these jokes usually involve some reference to how old he was and what he was doing when I was an infant and still sucking my mother’s breast. When Jon was in his third year of college I was still playing with My Little Pony and praying to God that I would get my period before I started middle school.

It’s funny only because he looks younger than I do, and no one ever believes me when I say that he’s a decade older than I am. Sometimes I have a hard time believing it because even though I have never heard of half of the bands in his CD collection (The Waterboys? HUH?) or have any recollection of life before Ronald Reagan, I have never had a closer, better friend.

Earlier this week when we were in San Francisco, I was lying half-naked on the bathroom floor of the hotel dripping vomit onto the toilet seat and watching my chest contort, the lower half of my body trying to turn inside-out and make its way out my nose. I thought it was pretty evident that I didn’t want to have anything to do with traveling that day, but Jon continued to engage himself in packing activities, moving clothes over here, zipping bags over there. I think I might have even said something to him about how uninterested I was in getting on a plane, and I’m sure it included words that Leta will pick up at the age of three, words that will WOW her peers at Little Gym, but he continued to pack the fucking bags.

After I had been writhing at the foot of the toilet for a couple hours Jon left the hotel room in a flurry to pick up some breakfast. When he returned he had this look on his face, a look I will never forget, a look that said, “I believe you, and not only do I believe you, but I feel the same way you do, and I’m so, so sorry.” And then he ripped of his shirt in that really cute way men rip off shirts, by reaching both hands over his back and pulling up from the bottom. And he stood there, breathless and sick and nauseated and shirtless, and he pulled a bottle of pink Pepto Bismol out of his back pocket, held it up as if he were posing for an advertisement, and announced, “THIS! THIS IS WHAT IS GONNA DO IT! WE ARE GOING TO DRINK THIS! THIS! AND WE ARE GOING TO GET ON THAT PLANE!”

I had never heard him speak with such conviction or hope. He really believed in that Pepto Bismol. He had a testimony, and that testimony was so inspiring that I got up off the floor and puked again.

I tell you this story because I don’t remember a lot from that morning, but I will always remember the way he was standing there, bare-chested and crooked, his right hand on his hip, his left hand cupping the Holy Pink Sacrament, and I knew that he could get me home. I will never forget that feeling.

Today on his birthday I want Jon to know that if his father were alive today that he would be proud of the way Jon takes care of his family, that Jon has grown into a man who routinely gets us home, if I may be so sickeningly metaphorical. Jon has grown into the best man his father could have ever known. He is the best man that I know.

(photo taken by the lovely Michaela Calanchini-Carter at Mel’s in San Francisco, July 17, 2004)