The big day came and went rather uneventfully. I awoke quietly and lay in bed assessing everything, expecting something to feel different. I didn’t feel any older and, surprisingly, I wasn’t monstrously depressed that one more year ticked down on my doomsday clock. It was just another day and I got up and lived it as such, though since it’s me we’re talking about, I did a lot of thinking. Now, don’t take this as some sort of morbid or overly serious assessment of my mortality, but I did spend a lot of time thinking about what I’d done with the thirty years I’d managed not to get hit by a bus or struck down by the bubonic plague. I’ve been far from home, seen exotic sights, strolled moonlit French beaches, and run through Central Park at 2am. I sang in Carnegie Hall and on the Warroad mini-theater stage and you might be surprised which place was more fun. I’ve been married, divorced, pregnant, in love, broken hearted, depressed, gloriously and ridiculously silly, and simply normal and mundane. There are plenty of little fun highlights in there and I like to think that I seize opportunities to make memories, but I’m not sure I’ve done anything with a great deal of purpose. I only think about the purpose aspect because of a boy named Adam who was a very dear friend.
I tend to think about Adam randomly throughout the year, but I always have him on my mind on my birthday and on Christmas. Adam and I spent the tenth grade together in a little Minnesota town called Lewiston. One year, that’s all I got there and my family was moving again. Before the move was my 17th birthday and Adam new how much I like to fish so he invited me to come trout fishing in the streams by his house. I was excited for the whole month leading up to my birthday. I had my license and a fishing outfit, even a special hat. When I got out to his house we fished for about an hour before he suggested we switch to a different stream. As we passed his garage to cross the road, all the friends I made that year came running out yelling, “Surprise!” The entire fishing expedition was a ruse to cover for a surprise birthday party. It was interesting to me that Adam was the one to throw that party, since until that moment I wouldn’t have labeled him as one of the closest of my new friends.
After that Adam and I stayed in touch through email and I was always asking his advice. He was one of those bouncy, smiling people so full of light and energy that it spreads to the whole room when they walk in. I loved tapping into that energy and listening to him joke. For two years after I moved we stayed friends and when I got engaged before graduation, it was Adam I called with a special request. I had several female friends that I was very close to, but there was something very special about Adam and I asked him to be my Man of Honor in the wedding. He proudly accepted.
Off to college I went, keeping busy with classes and wedding plans, and hardly talking to Adam at all, but secure in the knowledge that in the spring he would be standing beside me on my wedding day. Then a couple days after Christmas my mom called my fiancé and I with the devastating news that Adam had been killed in a car crash along with his sister.
Since that day there’s been a rather large and empty hole where all the happiness Adam brought to the world used to be. Every year after Christmas I cringe a little when the phone rings and on my birthday I think about the best day anyone ever gave me. Someone like that, who seems to have so much to offer, should be destined to fulfill some amazing purpose. Could he really have been done already? What would he have done with another year? Where would he be if he was turning 30? I like to think that we all have something we’re supposed to accomplish before we kick it and head off to whatever is next, but I suppose that’s more than a bit idealistic. I see this over and over though, and honestly it’s beginning to piss me off. People with the potential to do anything dying before they even get a chance to try. An amazing teacher with the ability to change the lives of her students crippled in a car accident, never to teach again. Sometimes I think the universe has a vendetta against the people who would make it a better place. In an ideal world, those of us left behind would step up to fill the shoes of the friends who get struck down, but we’re not all made the same way. I personally don’t have grand plans for making the world a better place. The best I think I’ll ever do is to be a nice and helpful person, but honestly that would go an awfully long way if everyone could grasp that mindset. As for my purpose, who knows? I’ve made it to 30, and I’m hoping to at least double that (barring those buses and pesky plaugues). I like to think my purpose is the future and making it there, continuing on as I have, maybe getting a bit bolder along the way. A purpose of the future in that maybe I’m just an example for Cole, or for my future grandkids and they’ll hear stories about me and it will make them want to do something big, like cure cancer, travel to Mars, or solve world hunger. Who knows, but I just like looking at Cole and thinking that somehow, he’s why I’m still around.