Updated: Mar 14
Does it still count as day dreaming if you actually lived it? If the images that build as your eyes glaze over and your stare gets further away aren’t created from hopes for the future, but rather, a flood of familiarity, from the memories of the life you’ve lived?
Well, whatever it’s called, I do it. A lot. Everyday.
And this morning was no different. This past weekend the same. This morning, the taste of red velvet and ice cream cakes, snippets of little presents and sub-par cards, loud laughs from countless dinners, Chianti bottles and slow sips of espresso martinis (ok the slow sips were more mine), happily made their way into my mind. They mark the birthdays of the guy who never needed much but lived the days with all he had. Though you never sought the attention, today is your day. Today is your birthday.
As I write this, I find it hard not to make it about me (you’re not totally surprised about that are you, Joe Abate). But selfishly, I miss you. Today, I want you here for me and for Vienna. For our families and friends, so I can watch you do the day. Would we have a quick birthday coffee before the day of work began? Would my social media birthday post be sentimental or sarcastic? What would you want for dinner? Chilis take out if I had to guess, because the big birthday dinner would have already been celebrated over the weekend. Would Vienna steal your card and open your presents? I don’t know. The infuriatingly, painful, reality is that, we won’t really ever know. But, after 10 birthdays with you in your 37 years, here is what I do know.
Your heart was good (yea, the friggen irony). It was filled with good. You see, I won’t say perfect, it isn’t the word to use but the word good sums it up and I think that’s an event better compliment. A perfect heart sets impossible standards, has no room to grow and, I imagine, doesn’t have nearly as much fun. But a good heart welcomes flaws with open arms because it’s been there too and sees the beauty beyond them. A good heart makes mistakes and learns from them, growing bigger for the better. And a good heart seeks the fun, the life, even if the decision isn’t always the best one. Perfect is intimidating. Good is accepting, it’s comfortable.
And that’s what you made everyone around you feel, comfortable. That’s another thing I know. With a friendly smile and a charmingly unfiltered mouth, your energy was contagious and at the end of the night, the whole room somehow knew your name. In your Nike sweats and Under Armor zippy, you were unassuming and the first one to laugh at yourself. You had a way of putting others at ease. Not everyone may have been lucky enough to know that version of you, and I’m thankful every day that I do.
That’s another thing. I know you weren’t the same person I met 11 years ago. And you weren’t supposed to be. Life lives each day on changes, some small and unnoticed while others are big, honest and uncomfortable. I look back and realize you ultimately didn’t back down from the uncomfortable, even when it turned ugly and neither one of us quite wanted to acknowledge it. While pride is and was not easily pushed aside, you did it when it mattered not just for you, but for us. To have known you at 26 and watched you become the man you were at 37 is an honor. You grew, I grew, we grew together and yet despite the changes, your heart was the same one I fell in love with 11 years ago.
And for this last one, the time was short but I only needed a second of it (and in many ways, that feels like all we got) to know for sure the kind of father you are and will always be. You were proud, loving and attentive. You were calm and steady. You believed in and trusted me as a mom and though today is about you, that’s the greatest gift you gave me. I watch her everyday and know you’re smile takes up your whole face as you watch, too. You held her in your hands on day one and she’ll hold you in her heart for the rest of her life.
So today, while my memories play and my smile is bittersweet, I won’t call it day dreaming. Because our years of celebrating your birthdays were better than dreams, they were realities, we lived them.
Today on your birthday, it’s been 38 years of your mark on this world, 11 years of celebrating everything you are, and we still have forever to go.
Happy birthday Joe Abate. We love you forever and 3 kisses after that.