Yesterday would’ve been my dad’s 64th birthday. An unexpected tradition formed following dad’s unexpected death: I’d have a cherry coke on his subsequent birthdays, toasting to him.
It started as a fluke.
Mom had found a six pack of bottles that he would’ve taken in his daily lunch. It seemed appropriate to open one and have some swigs.
The next year Muscato and I were living in our house. Somehow mom and my brother both stopped by (I say somehow — when tragedy is still raw and important dates roll around, you draw close to your people without even realizing you’re doing it). I remember we were quiet. Somber.
I opened a cherry coke from that same 6-pack. It was flat af, which felt appropriate. A little bit of dry humor, just like dad’s, to soften the mood.
After that year I made it intentional. Again and again come Feb 19, I’d have a cherry coke. Or at least a few swigs anyway. I don’t drink pop otherwise, and woah is that stuff sweet. I even documented a few of the “dates.”
This vacation I’ve had the annual birthday drink on my radar. It’s been 10 years since the last time we celebrated dad’s birthday in person — this cherry coke tradition has helped me feel like he’s close again. Over time the hurt changed to eagerness; I’d awaken anticipating “seeing” him in some way during the day.
Yesterday came and I was…not eager…not hurt either. I was good.
I figured I’d get a coke at dinner to maintain tradition, but it didn’t feel necessary as it has in years past. Come dinner time the restaurant didn’t serve any form of cherry coke (or Pepsi) whatsoever. Talk about an affirmation. An affirmation that it’s okay to not continue a tradition for tradition’s sake. An affirmation that changing how I remember dad doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten him. An affirmation that it’s okay to let go.
These balloons caught my eye before dinner. Before learning there’d be no coke.
Balloons. A symbol of celebration. A symbol of remembrance. A symbol? Of letting go.