Happy Birthday Jason

September 11, 2014

Jason’s 43rd birthday. It’s been 4 months and 5 days since he took his life.

I asked Rain and Moxie how we should celebrate.

“Can we get a birthday cake?”

Sure, this seems appropriate. “What kind?”

“He likes white cake. With white icing. And white whip cream trim. But not a lot of designs on the top because he didn’t like that much icing.”

hmm “Okay”… this is a little more complicated than I had anticipated.

“Can we hang the birthday sign?”

“Sure, I guess.” The birthday sign is tradition.

“And balloons?”

“Um.. okay…”

“Can we get him a present?”

“Um…. I’m not sure we need to get him a present….” This is clearly getting out of hand.

“What if we have a special dinner for him?” I asked.


“Okay. We can cook something at home or go out to a restaurant.”

“hmmmm…. Let’s stay in.”

Phew! For a minute I was having visions of a horrified young waitress being asked to sing Happy Birthday to my kids and their dead father.

{Flashback to Jason’s 30th birthday. It was the day of the 9-11 attacks. We went out for dinner. It was incredibly somber. We joked that night about how awkward it would be to ask the wait staff to sing him Happy Birthday.}

“Okay what are some of his favourite foods?”

After some deliberation, it was agreed we would have pizza and chicken wings.

“How about salad?” (even birthday parties need vegetables!)


“Daddy never made us eat salad!”

“Okay… good point. But we really do need a vegetable.”

“How about broccoli?”


“WITH butter!!!!”

We always eat plain steamed broccoli in this house but.. “Sure, we can put butter on the broccoli.”

“And we must eat chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast!”

“Really? Did your Dad really make you chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast??” (I don’t remember him ever making pancakes for me..?)

“YES – we have to have them Mom!”

“Okay fine … I’ll make chocolate chip pancakes…”

“Do we have to go to school?”

“YES! Geez.. This is not a National holiday!”

The next morning I stood in the party aisle at Walmart at 8:30 before work and stared at the various party themes – this isn’t really your typical Hallmark moment. As I reached for the monster theme (thinking that Jason would have thought they were cool) it suddenly dawned on me:

Buying zombie themed party hats for their dead dad’s bday party might be a tad nightmare inducing.

YIKES!! Okay, standard issue party theme it is! Birthday banner, hats, balloons…Now do we need loot bags? What’s the protocol? I’ve never planned a birthday party for someone who is dead before… I decided that loot bags would be a little over the top but I did grab us each a new .99 cent notebook (one can never have enough notepads!).

Later that night, I found myself blowing up balloons and hanging birthday banners until after midnight. Seriously. The absurdity of the situation made me chuckle. Who would have guessed I’d be planning a birthday party for Jason six years after we separated. Yet, here I was. I wondered if there was a career market for this: Birthday planning for ghosts. I also wondered if I should list this as a pastime on my dating profile. Okay Erica, you’re delirious with exhaustion and lack of oxygen. Stop blowing up balloons and Go to bed!

Morning came earlier than normal… making chocolate chip pancakes takes longer than yelling (er.. asking..) at the kids to throw some cereal in a bowl before school.

After a long caffeine induced day at work I went to the bakery section of the local grocery store to get a white cake with white whip cream trim. The lovely lady at the counter asked if she should write something on it? Is it for a birthday she asked?

“Um sort of … Can you write Happy Birthday Daddy?”

She smiled as if it were the sweetest thing she’d heard that day. I smiled back .. If only she knew…

By this point I was beyond exhausted. The new school routine has kicked my ass and of course I’d been up too late making party arrangements and up too early making pancakes. So when I picked up the kids I suggested we watch a movie as a special weeknight treat. They bought it (I mean, they agreed) and decided on Shrek. Apparently it reminded them of Jason.

“Shrek is a lot like Dad, really,” said Rain

“How’s that?” I asked

“Well they both like to scare you at first but they’d never really hurt you. They just like to have fun.”


So we ate pizza, chicken wings and buttered broccoli while watching Shrek. When it was over we lit the birthday candles and sang Happy Birthday to Jason.

Birthday Wishes
Birthday Wishes

I asked them to share a memory of their Dad.

“I remember him spinning me around in circles.” said Moxie

“I remember him playing soccer with me.” said Rain

And, despite my grumbling, it really is important to keep these memories alive as long as possible. They might not always remember that their Dad liked white cake with white trim and chocolate chip pancakes but hopefully they will remember that he would spin them around in circles and play soccer with them. Rain and Moxie have wonderful memories of their Dad. I will do my very best to help them remember those good times keep them close to their hearts. (of course you might need to remind me of this next year when I’m up past midnight blowing up balloons for his 44th birthday.)

Cheers Hoop. Happy Birthday.

Team Adventurers


5 Comments Add yours

  1. Lee Piepgrass says:

    Erica, you are some kind of woman! And your children are more blessed than they know. Thanks for including me!



  2. richkote says:

    Your writing gets more beautiful with every post


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