Everyone who’s lost someone dear has a lot of “firsts” to face the year following their loved one’s death. Bruce was born August 7, 1948. This Wednesday was his first birthday without him. My inner fourteen-year-old Lily and I put our heads together and decided that, instead of mourning and moping, we’d celebrate. After all, we are very happy that Bruce was born!
As such, we converted August 7th into a celebration called Brucemas. We worked out the needed components- -food, music, vestments, ceremonies of renewal- -and made a day of it.
Throughout the day we played his favorite CDs- -Ronstadt, Everly Brothers, Fleetwood Mac and especially Bob Seger. Bruce had an affinity for Seger, having lived in Detroit himself as a young man.
Selecting gifts for someone who has passed on can be tricky. His favorite pocket watch, the one I’d given him on his 60th birthday with a fitting sentiment engraved on the back, had stopped running near the time he died. I took it to a jewelry store and had the battery replaced. It now sits on my dresser, running like a dream and reminding me of Bruce with every sweep of the second hand. To symbolize the renewal of life, I planted two rows of late-season carrots.
Many of Bruce’s birthdays were celebrated on the road for summer tour in our RV-conversion bus. For a long time Bruce had a wheat intolerance so I stowed a gluten-free cake mix in with our provisions and wrestled the funky old propane stove into doing my bidding on August 7th. Depending on our campsite, the finished product could have quite a slope, but the results were always edible. I baked a cake this year, carrot, one of his three favorites. So easy in a level kitchen!
The official Brucemas libation is the Matley Manhattan, light on red vermouth, with home-grown sour cherries instead of maraschino. It was appallingly hot in Walla Walla this August 7th, so we kept dinner light- -smoked salmon, hummus, raw vegetables and French bread baked that day from John’s Wheatland Bakery. Lily reminded me to wear something pretty for cocktails and dinner. Bruce especially liked my red strapless sundress. It’s the first time I’ve worn it this year.
I feel fortunate to have landed on the idea of Brucemas. So many widows and widowers spend birthdays, anniversaries and holidays feeling only the loss while struggling not to show it to friends and family. On special days it’s hard to be around people who are trying to jolly you up because they love you and want you to be happy. I was glad Brucemas was celebrated with just those of us at home- -me, Lily and the 4-legged kids (who scored catnip and homemade dog biscuits). I did have a bit of a cry and will admit that I was emotionally drained by evening but in the end, celebrating and feeling mostly happy seemed right.
Happy Brucemas to you.