I've had a love hate relationship with September 20th since 1991.
It was my dad's birthday. He was turned 36 that day. Or was it 37? Math is hard.
That it was his birthday was in the back of my mind all day. Sometimes it was completely out of my mind, but then, at the most random moments I would think, I have to remember to wish him a happy birthday tonight when I see him.
I was staying with him on that day and the weeks prior because he was three blocks from the hospital where Jen was staying.
Jen was that girl every boy has at least once in his life. That girl who made everything else fade into background noise, made the heart beat, made a boy want to be a man. She had long, thick auburn hair, freckles across the bridge of her nose, a crooked smile and a metric shit ton of gumption.
I was in love with her before I knew her name.
She made me fucking miserable.
So, between the start of my sophomore year, to the middle of my junior year we tortured each other the way adolescent children do. She finally crushed me and I begged my dad to let me transfer to another school. He did so on the promise that I would fucking graduate. It was a tall order considering I failed more classes than I passed in the last year. But I promised, and he allowed me to transfer.
While I was busy making good on my promise my Uncle Charlie died and Jen was the person I turned to. It was different. I was different. Maybe she was too.
We were friends.
Then my senior year came and went and I graduated with two whole credits to spare.
I started dating. Two girls, in fact. I called her to rub it in.
I was done the moment she said, hello.
From June of 1990 to September 20, 1991 she was that thing in my life.
We weren't kids anymore, but we weren't exactly adults either. We just, each of us, had a much better idea of who the fuck we were and who we wanted to be in this world.
She was a good thing. Without me around to try forcing her to be what I wanted her to be, she became something better than I could have imagined.
When I arrived at the hospital that morning the nurse said, she's gone.
I didn't understand the words until another nurse explained them to me.
Something inside of my broke. Eventually that thing atrophied and, when it did finally heal, didn't quite work the way it used to.
The rest of that day was spent in a haze. Lots of hugs. Lots of tears.
Seeing people I love face the news that their firstborn child was dead did something to me, too.
That night I went back to my dad's house and, I don't remember if I called him to tell him the news beforehand or if one of my friends did, but he knew. He did his best to hold me up. I just wanted to go to bed.
I took a step into the room that used to be mine and remembered.
I turned back to him apologizing for forgetting.
Shut up, boy, I hate my birthday now. It's always going to remind you of the worst day of your life. No father wants that.
Turns out, September 20, 1991 ended up being the second worst day of my life.
He'd have been 62 today. Or maybe 63.