[dropcap]S[/dropcap]eptember 11, 1994 was the night my father turned forty-one. His forty-first birthday was perhaps the most memorable night of my life.
It was a grand party. We even grilled steaks, and we never did that. Mother also made a huge cake, five layers, topped with white frosting, made to feed an army of guests. She let me help decorate it. On the top, Mother spelled out, “Forty-one, the beginning of the end” in blue icing. Her version of a joke.
Everyone ate outside on the porch while the sun went down. When supper ended, Mother and I presented the cake. Everybody sang a chorus of Happy Birthday, I tagged the melody with my usual operatic, “and many more.”
My father laughed at the blue text on the cake, then ate two pieces, along with three bowls of ice cream. I remember this very clearly, because I did the same thing.
After eating so much in one sitting, everyone started getting sleepy. At eight-thirty, folks shook hands and left for home. We watched their red taillights disappear down our one-thousand-foot red dirt driveway. Then, my father and I sat by the pond and watched the stars come out. He pointed out the Big Dipper, but he was several constellations off.
I didn’t bother to correct him.
After our hindparts got sore from sitting, we hiked up to the house. Mother was already in bed. We ate one more slice of cake. And by then, the cake was demolished. You couldn’t even see the iced blue lettering anymore. He died forty eight hours later.
And all I can remember are those damned blue letters.