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Happy Birthday, Dad. Sorry I Have No Idea When You Were Actually Born.

Amber Adrian

My dad's birthday may be coming up. But I don't know for sure.

I'm embarrassed by this, obviously. Like, thanks for feeding and singing the ABCs when I was panicking and putting me through college, dad! Sorry I forgot your birthday for over thirty years!

It's less awkward now that he won't notice if I don't call or write. But guilt is an emotion that transcends death.

Other birthdays stick in my head just fine. I can rattle off my mom and brother's birth dates, zodiac signs, and preferred method of celebratory communication at a moment's notice. But no matter how often I put it in my calendar or asked my mom what it was, I could never remember my father's. 

After dad's death, I handled all the paperwork. I must have seen and written out his birth date dozens of times. On the hospital and insurance paperwork, relaying the information to the social security office and to the undertaker for his death certificate. But I can't for the life of me remember the date. I'm not even one-hundred percent certain it's in April. 

On the surface it doesn't make any sense. I'm not the high priestess of details, but I do all right in life. I'm not the best daughter, but I'm not a terrible one. 

But since he passed away, I've learned that people can make themselves invisible. 

In fact, I used to be one of them. In high school, I could waltz into class thirty-five minutes late, carrying a takeout cup of coffee, and the teacher didn't even pause his lecture. I once napped through most of my economics class, head down on the desk, and the teacher didn't say a word. I always assumed it was because I was generally a good, quiet student, and didn't abuse the privilege of napping or caffeinating. But now I'm not so sure. 

Once I deeply distressed a date when I told him I was walking home through San Francisco, all the way from the Mission to the Lower Haight, at eleven at night. It didn't even occur to me to be worried. It's like I went through life with Harry Potter's cloak of invisibility. Or stupidity, which is an argument I probably can't deny. But I honestly felt one-hundred percent safe. 

My only defense against stupidity is that you can't sneak up on me. A friend once saw me from a block away and was going to yell out my name but decided not to, because I was with a date. He told me later that, as he was deciding whether or not to shout my name, he saw me turn and look over my shoulder in his direction, like I was looking for something. 

(I also know when people are mad at me or thinking unkind things about me - even if they never say anything, even if they're thousands of miles away. This is a less fun psychic power, but it's been confirmed often enough that I've stopped thinking I'm paranoid.) 

Superpowers are great, unless you unconsciously use them to block off the world and then wonder why no one ever sees you.

I think my father was in hiding - and it affected most everything in his life, from work to relationships to his goddamn birthday that I can never remember. 

Why are some of us so scared of being seen? Being recognized? Being loved? Wounds can run deep and we are so powerful at protecting ourselves, even when it means walling ourselves off from everything we actually want.

As an empath, I have a deeply aggravating habit of bringing thoughts, emotions, and wounds onboard that aren't my own. Sometimes I wonder how much of my invisibility is mine and how much of it I took on from my father.

Trying to sort out what's mine and what's someone else's is like trying to file sand. Each grain is questionable, convincing it to stay happily in its assigned folder is basically impossible, and there's just so damn much of it. 

Sometimes you can heal something in an instant, sometimes it feels like swimming through quicksand for an eon or two. I'm tired of swimming through quicksand. It's exhausting and fruitless. So I think I'm just going to let myself off the hook about my father's birthday. I know he doesn't care. He's good, he knows I love him. He just wants me to move on, to find and do the things he didn't, and finally let all those wounds heal. 

Maybe I don't have to file the sand. Maybe I just have to run across it, chasing seagulls and dancing just out of reach of the waves. Shake it out of my shoes, before I get back in my car and drive home.

[EDIT: My mom just informed me that his birthday is April 7th. As in, yesterday. Guess you can still be an asshole to your dad even after he's dead! WHAT A RELIEF.]