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My Uncle's 30th Birthday

While reorganizing, I came across my box of childhood mementos. I had not looked at the contents in years. I decided to read my old diaries, beginning with my first one, penned when I was 8 years old.

I read the pages in good spirits. The entry on August 13, 1989, however, gave me pause. “Today I whent to cherch,” I wrote. “It was my uncle Gary’s Birthday. He is thardy.”

I felt my eyebrows furl and my smile fade.

That was my uncle’s final birthday.

My uncle Gary died in a car accident in June of 1990. His death rocked my extended family’s dynamics and remains a wound that never healed, only adapted to and endured.

I recoiled by the simplicity of my entry. Why didn’t I write anything more substantial? Surely, I would have had a conversation with him. He would have been smiling. He probably would have hugged me, too. I was angry at my young self for not including more "important" details.

As I wrestled with the entry, I realized that, as time has passed, my memories of my uncle tend to center on the day of his death and the aftermath. The "after." Not the "before" – regardless of the fact that the "after" derives its power from the "before."

Though it may seem almost offensive that there is no sense of foreboding in this passage, to the child penning this entry, this beloved uncle's presence was normal. Whatever he would have said to me on this day was nothing I thought to write down. The things I loved about him were common sense. Constant. Beautifully banal. What made this day noteworthy was that he was turning "thardy" years old.

This philosophical retooling may not seem like a big deal. But it is. And this realization fills my heart with joy.

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