Doctors have explained that the reason you can retain older memories after a stroke or brain injury, but can’t recall things that happened in the days, weeks, or months leading up, is because it takes a certain amount of time for your brain to process and store something as an actual memory. I could easily regale my parents with memories of our “White Trash Christmas” from ’96, but couldn’t tell you what I had been doing the day before the stroke because my brain kerploded before it ever got to store anything from that day as a memory. Whenever I wrote that on the calendar, though, the memory was stored.
I seem to remember Father’s Day falling on my birthday more often, but it must just be because it always falls near the same date. In my home state of Texas, June 19th is always a celebratory day anyway: Juneteenth (June 19th) celebrates the day all the slaves in Texas were finally freed (2 ½ years after the Emancipation Proclamation became official). It’s said to be the oldest known celebration of the ending of slavery in the United States; I was always so proud of the fact that I was born on the same day, and amazed when kids in other states knew nothing about the holiday. For someone who loves freedom, and feels it is the most important liberty all human beings deserve to possess, it was a great day to be born.
For my dad, however, it is now a day to be feared, especially when it shares Father’s Day. According to the sources I could find, we first shared the day on my 3rd birthday in 1988, then again on my 9th birthday in 1994. After that fateful 20th birthday in 2005, Father’s Day again fell on my birthday in 2011, when I turned 26, and shall again this year on my 31st birthday and “11-year anniversary.”
We weren’t going to celebrate my birthday on Father’s Day, but it presents a second complication this year, as it falls on the final day of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Somehow my brother, who I didn’t believe ever missed a race, has missed it (or part of it) the past 2 years. I guess that’s the sort of thing that happens when you’re running after a 6-year-old all the time. We couldn’t allow him to miss the race again this year, though, prompting us to change our plans so that we can all celebrate on Sunday, after they’ve been to church and he’s seen the race. So, Dad will have to celebrate Father’s Day on my birthday again this year (HA!) …but at least next year it falls on my little cousin John’s birthday, the day before…and as he’s never allowed to get hurt, we should all be ok!
I had so hoped to be able to tell my Daddy that I had a publisher for my book (or at least an agent helping me) when my birthday/Father’s Day/11-year anniversary happened this year…but that was when naiveté prevented me from knowing just how difficult of a process this can be. You think having a crazy story, an important message, and a completed manuscript is enough until you actually begin the process of looking for an agent and publisher. That is why I’m hoping this page will draw more people to my story, getting them interested in the message and ready for the book to be published, so I can share it with everyone.
I would be remiss not to mention another, sadder “anniversary” which I heard of on my 30th birthday last year. Last year saw a busy, joyous celebration hosted by my brother Mike and his wife Tiffani at their house. Everyone gathered and made touching toasts as we celebrated ten years that we almost didn’t get together. It had been such a happy day for all of us as I reveled in the blessings I could so easily have missed out on, and as my loved ones celebrated how far we had all come from those tense days in the hospital ten years before. When I went outside to discover my car had been backed into, and a trembling teenager across the street, it didn’t even phase me. I had been in her scared shoes before, and I was riding too high to let anything get to me. At home that night, I told my husband Scott “Well, my car got run into and I puked up pink on the way home. Overall, one of the best birthdays I’ve had in a while!” There was another family that had lingered in the back of my mind that day, though.
Earlier I had been on Facebook, as many friends and family had sweetly wished me a Happy Birthday. But I didn’t even make it to the posts on my Wall before I saw one on my Newsfeed that made me stop cold. A girl I had gone to high school with had posted a long, heart-wrenching tribute to her sister. Ten years ago that day her sister had been killed while riding cross-country on her bicycle with some friends. By all accounts that I’ve seen and heard, Rachel Speight was a wonderful, talented individual who had so much more to offer this world than I do. I will never understand why my family’s grief turned to excited joy eleven years ago, while her family’s grief has never gone away. My heart broke for her younger sister Abby and their parents as I read how their family had been forever changed ten years before and would never be the same. It’s the sort of thing that can make you feel very unworthy of the miracles you’ve been given. Rachel was a gifted singer with a beautiful voice. She gave back to the community, was attending Yale, and actually knew what she was going to do with her life. In many regards she was a much better person than I’ll ever be, and while I may never know why our fates weren’t switched on that day eleven years ago, I will always remember her (especially on that day), and the fact that my family was allowed to keep me while more deserving people were called Home before their loved ones were ready. With that in mind, I know I better not waste these amazing blessings, even when times seem tough. I ask anyone who reads this to please keep Rachel’s family in mind this, and every year on June 19th. Please say a prayer for them as they continue to grieve and live life in her shining memory that continues to affect others who weren’t even blessed enough to know her.