Her favorite color was red and so was the balloon. After thirty minutes of indecisiveness had passed, I finally picked one that occupied its own space in the corner. It was covered in white polkadots. It reminded me of her. Delicate, yet bold and delightful. The balloon was most likely overlooked in a sea of others painted with flare and metallic confetti.
I decided it was more appropriate to celebrate a person’s life on the day they arrived, and not the day they said farewell the final time. I had never missed one of her birthdays and I didn’t plan to start. Reliving those memories was better than driving down the road of lost battles and regret.
I grabbed a small card, one of those that looks like it’s meant to be attached to a gift bag, and headed to check out. The cashier was surprised when I declined a balloon weight. “No point,” I told her. “It will be in a better place before long.” My condescending smile met her gaze on the way out.
I managed to drive around for another thirty minutes before I finally gave up on feeling some sort of connection with a certain park, beach, or woodsy trail. In the end, I settled for a city park with minimal graffiti and weeds clawing their way through the concrete basketball court. The park was mostly empty barring a smitten couple on a bench that was near its retirement. I let in a sigh of relief. This meant I could shed a few tears without a stranger coming to my comfort.
Blankly staring at the card, I replayed the last year, then two, then three. So much had happened. So much she had missed. I tried my best to summarize the year’s highlights and when I finished it reminded me of a New York Times’ daily briefing. Straight to the point, but eloquently said.
Running to dodge a car, I crossed the street to the mediocre park and found a tuft of grass that looked greener than others. I struggled to tie the card onto the balloon and forced myself to fight the frustration, the frustration of the entire situation. Another year had passed and memories had been made without her. Life continued to move on. Her face grew harder to see. After a small release of anger, I let the balloon go and sent another year away. But before I left the park, I took a few moments to relive memories. The ones made on her fifty-seven birthdays.