Here it is. The day I waited for, 23 years ago.
The day you would be born.
It was going to be a glorious day!
Having two girls already, “this one,” I said, “will be my boy.”
Dad wanted you so badly.
Oh yes, he certainly loved his girls (back then and even more so now),
But he was relieved and so happy when you were born.
And the possibility of having to put another dollhouse together, disappeared.
Now there would be blues and greens, maybe some purple and orange, but not pink everywhere.
There would be cars, planes, trains and action figures around the house, taking the place of Barbies.
Race tracks to put together!
Even I got excited at that prospect.
Our son was born. We had a baby boy!
I remember the plan we made before you came.
I would go to the hospital of my choice and pretend to be in labor,
so that you wouldn’t have to be born in the city hospital we couldn’t afford, anyway.
Little did I know the joke was on me, because when I got there, I was in labor.
They took a sonogram and told me I was having a girl even at that last minute.
“Oh, no I’m not.” I told them. “You’re wrong.”
Even daddy made jokes about it and said I had to change your name.
But I told him, “Nope. It’s a boy and his name will stay the same.”
J Malik Brandon Fannell, that’s what it was to be.
Too much distress on my body, so they had to take you.
And there you were. My boy!!! Our boy!!!
Just like I said. In spite of the doctors.
And all I could do was laugh.
I think dad chuckled too.
We were so happy!!!
Dad shouted to the rooftops, “No more dollhouses to build!”
And he changed your name.
Let’s name his Joseph.
So instead of the J, it was Joseph.
Joseph Malik Fannell.
Though I wanted you to have a piece of daddy’s name, the Brandon was removed.
Dad wanted you to have a piece of his dad’s name.
But something was wrong the doctors said
I don’t understand. You cried like the other babies.
But you weren’t like them.
(Even then you stood out from the rest).
You had to have surgery.
Three, before your first year of life.
A rare condition you had.
Requiring a specialist.
You were so very special. So very unique.
We just never knew how true that would come to be.
Growing up, we laughed with you.
We cried with you.
You had certainly had your share of spankings.
And we cried for you. As parents would say.
“This hurts me more than it does you….”
So many memories.
The time you fell off your bike and caused me to faint,
Because of all the blood.
Wasn’t really that much but it could have been to me.
When you bumped your mouth on the bathroom sink
And cracked your tooth in half. Twice.
I remember you “living” outside.
You were out there so much.
Climbing the vine bricks in the backyard,
Digging up bugs in the ground and playing with them
Calling them your friends.
Funny, you wouldn’t go anywhere near one later in life.
I remember how you used to ride your tricycle in the house
And slam into the door whenever daddy was trying to study.
How you ran to the window in the excitement of seeing your grandmother.
“Ahma’s car! Ahma’s car!” is what you would say.
And how we couldn’t pass a McDonald’s or Dunkin’ Donuts,
Having to take the long way home..
For fear you would cry out, “Hamburger, fry” or “Doh doh”
I remember the way you loved your sisters.
Adoring them, even as they made fun of you, in almost every gathering.
Whenever I tried to take a picture.
How you would secretly ask me about dad
And the things he did when he was younger, with me,
So you would know how to treat your girlfriend.
How you admired him from a distance.
Telling him so, “in your own way.”
He knows that now. For sure.
I remember watching you teach Christian basketball
And ran him until he was tired.
Making sure every basket went in the hoop a certain amount of times, straight
Before you let him come in the house.
So many memories.
Oh how you loved them all. How you loved us all.
I saw it in your eyes.
I remember the birthday celebrations of yesterday,
Watching you get older with each one,
How you always had the biggest smile,
Especially when we got it “right.”
And gave you the perfect gift.
I remember one year though, we didn’t quite meet that expectation
And you let it show.
You were like that Joe.
So honest in your emotions with us.
So much so, I often wondered how you hid it so well with others.
But I realized it was a gift.
Whatever you felt when it came to others,
Tucked it away so it could be used later.
As you delivered those spoken words so effortlessly.
“Do you really think I have a talent?” you asked me.
“Oh yes,” I said, in my effort to encourage you.
“Just being able to remember written words like that, is a talent.
And then to recite them, page and page of text, so fluently,
That’s a gift.”
You used that gift well.
Even if it was only for a short period of time.
I believe you touched more lives in your 22 years
Than some do in a lifetime.
To look back now and to be able to see just how much you’ve done
Makes me so very grateful.
So here it is. The day I’ve been anticipating,
What would have been your 23rd birthday.
And you’re not here.
Who would have imagined that I’d be here?
That we would be here.
I ask myself, can we really say Happy Birthday to someone in heaven?
How do you celebrate?
We can celebrate your birth and the fact that you were born to us.
We can celebrate the life that you had, the person you were,
And the delight you have given us.
Those words of Michael Jackson could not be more true for you.
For you were…
Born to amuse, to inspire, and to delight.
The road was never easy, but it was worth it and very well tread upon.
Because of you.
Happy Birthday in heaven, Joseph.
You will forever be 22, but you will forever be celebrated.
Rest in peace. Sleep in peace.