Happy birthday, Daddy. When I look at this photo, I see my own son – the wondrous and precocious child who makes everyone laugh with anecdotes and proverbial dad jokes. I also see the boy who, when jokes turned inward, would bruise easily and fight with fire to protect himself – and his family.

Mom asked me if I can think of you as you were when I was growing up – or if I’m still stuck with the vision of the confused and paranoid you that was trapped and terrified at the end. I guess I still see both.

The deep mourning I’m still in is fueled by the absolute devastating way you spent your last year on this earth – scared, confused, delusional and mad – struggling to make connections you once made so easily. I see you hunched over and perpetually stuck at seams in the floor or cracks in the sidewalk. I see you on your knees on the floor – trying to find the end of the oxygen tube that was always “leaking water.” I see you angry at the impostor who was pretending to be your wife – stealing all of your money and allowing all those strangers to live in your house. I see the man who looked at me with cold, distrusting eyes saying unspeakable and horrible things to me – this lady and this kid by her side who wanted to harm you. I see that man every day.

It is the longing and sweet sadness that puts things into real focus. It’s the quiet moments on sleepless nights when I can see the real you. I see you in my boy who takes all the best bits of you and churns them into some kind of new Amoroso-Muench stew. You’re in his eyes. You’re in his laughter. You’re in his delicate soul. And I do know that you are still on this earth – dust to dust – and that makes me swell with love. I also know that your brain is in good use – that it is going to change the way doctors understand and treat LBD. You are pivotal, Daddy. You are a hero.

But GODDAMN it hurts that you are not here today. It hurts that I can’t embrace you and hear you say, “I’ll give you twenty minutes to stop that.” I’m so mad that the smell you left behind on your winter coat is fading so that when I sneak into the closet for comfort – you are further and further gone. I hate this, Dad. I hate it. I miss you, and there is nothing I can do about it. I am so mad and so sad.

So I guess I’ll sing a silent birthday tune and just breathe and hug my kid. Happy birthday, Daddy. I love(d) you.

Anna Amoroso-Muench

Jul 14, 2018