October 19. Tomorrow. Dad's birthday.
The best way I can think to describe what happened in that instant is that the reminder somehow physically and mentally knocked the wind out of me. I felt like I'd just taken a hard fall. I couldn't inhale or exhale. Time just stopped for a minute.
I don't think I actually realized that I had stopped breathing until I finally heard myself gasp a bit for that next breath. I had to go into a meeting, so I told myself it was just another day, shoved it back down, and went on with my work.
I don't understand why it happened so suddenly. For the last week I've been informing people of an October 19 deadline, creating meetings for Wednesday, and discussing timelines. It just hadn't occurred to me yet. Now, though, even typing it hurts.
My dad and I didn't talk all that much, but October 19 was different. Even if we were really upset with one another or our lives were so busy we couldn't make time, I always called him on his birthday.
My dad would have been 73 tomorrow. I would have called him and asked him what he did for his birthday. Most likely he would have just had a nice lunch at home and spent time on the farm - like any other day. I'd tell him to make sure and treat himself to something special, and he'd tell me that my brother and sister called and pass along updates. After a pause in the conversation he'd slowly say, "Well, I reckon I better get off here," and we'd end the call with assurances that we'd keep in better touch. For a few days after the call, we'd text each other quite a bit. The quick hellos and silly dad jokes would come less frequently as my response time increased over the following week or two. I'd let it slide knowing that we'd have another call on Thanksgiving for sure. I would feel a little badly that we didn't talk more, but I'd get wrapped up in my life and move on.
But tomorrow we won't do that. We can't do that. Tomorrow is October 19, and for the first time in my life that day will pass without my talking with him.
I'm trying to tell myself it's just another day. It is, ultimately.
And yet, looking at that date,
I just can't breathe.