It’s a happy coincidence that the timeline of this project – August 7th to April 17th – skips over the months of May, June, and July. Conveniently, I won’t have to write on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, my birthday, my ex-husband’s birthday, or our ex-wedding-anniversary. I won’t have to worry about the feelings any of those dates evoke, and I won’t have to worry in the event that those dates don’t evoke any feelings, when I feel like maybe they should.
However, in every relationship, in every lifetime, there are many dates to remember. I realized this yesterday when a friend/coworker mentioned that December 10th was his mother’s birthday; she’s been gone for over eight years, and still, every year on her birthday, he cries.
“I don’t remember the date she died on,” he said. “Or my sister’s. Or even my sister’s birthday. I blocked them all out. I think that’s why I’m so horrible with remembering dates in general, because I forget them to protect myself.”
Unfortunately, I am not horrible with dates. I still know many of my exes’ birthdays. I know that many of the deaths I’ve experienced have happened right around the turn of the year (my childhood choir director, 12-31-00; one of my girlfriends in LA, 1-7-04; my friend Carrie’s mom, 12-28-06), which is why I’m usually pretty wary about celebrating on New Year’s Eve.
And so yesterday, when my friend mentioned his mom’s birthday, I was forced to recognize that December 10th (2004) also happens to be the anniversary of the day my ex-husband and I first became a couple.
I don’t really have a lot of feelings to report on this subject, because I don’t really harbor any lingering feelings for my ex or for that relationship. But I did remember that the year we split up (2007), I texted my ex a few days before the 10th to tell him I was starting to see 12/10 sell-by dates on the bread I was stocking, and that it was kind of poignant and sad. And for the next few anniversaries (of our courthouse ceremony, our actual wedding, and maybe December 10th the following year), one of us would inevitably send a text to the other, a simple, “Thinking of you today,” message, to let the other know we hadn’t forgotten. And on our birthdays, which are two weeks apart, we’d send each other courtesy “Happy birthday” texts. And, minus one meeting for coffee about a year after we’d split, these polite, annoying, little messages were the extent of our post-relationship relationship.
Until this year. A few anniversaries had passed without any word. On my ex’s birthday, I agonized over whether or not I wanted to send him a text and wish him happy birthday. “I wish I knew,” I confessed to Carrie at around 11 o’clock that night, “whether or not he was planning on texting me on my birthday. Because I don’t want him to feel obligated to text me just because I texted him. And I don’t want to not text him and then look like an asshole if he texts me. It sucks that his birthday comes first, and every single year I have to be the one to start it.”
She told me to just go ahead with it, to be polite and friendly, to be the bigger person. (Even though we weren’t yet sure there was a smaller person.) So I did. I sent him happy birthday, and he replied and thanked me. Pretty painless.
Then, two weeks later, my birthday came and went with no reciprocating message from my ex. And a few weeks after that, when Carrie had to be the one to tell me that my ex had recently gotten engaged again, she and I did the math and concluded that he was probably proposing to his girlfriend on (or at least within days of) my birthday. So apparently my ex and I are not similarly afflicted with a knack for remembering dates. Or he did remember, and he’s just an asshole.
At least this means that, yesterday, I didn’t have to worry about whether to contact him. I could confidently do my job the other night, and get rid of all the bread with that 12/10 sticker on it, without agonizing about whether or not I needed to do something about the date’s existence. No hurt feelings to consider; no sad, sweet memories of lost love to affect.
I guess, as of last July, I’m truly, finally free.