On Ben’s Birthday, Love “To Infinity and Beyond”

This is one of the last cards I made for Ben.

Today is Ben’s birthday. Just one more lousy milestone date in February. I have found it helpful to make a plan that acknowledges the day and honors Ben, and that gives me the flexibility to go with whatever I end up feeling. On my Ben milestone dates, I have found that being on a train, though bittersweet without him, also provides the comfort of good memories and thoughts of him. Ben loved travel by train and we took some lovely excursions. I will always lament the time stolen from him and from us- the many journeys we would have taken- but I have accepted that he will travel with me in my heart.

I have been working diligently on my writing and decided to take myself on a little two-day retreat in Beacon, New York. It is a place I have wanted to visit- I love quaint towns- and where I thought I would be able to relax. Ben’s birthday always falls during our school vacation, so the timing of this getaway was perfect. I scheduled my return train for today.

My view from the train, as Ben would have captured it.

My goal was to spend time enjoying the scenery and taking in the inspiration to work on my picture books. I also had a book to read. I resolved that I would not be harsh with myself if I was not in a great frame of mind, distracted by my February blues. But, optimistically, I looked forward to the change of scenery, because I have found that conducive to writing.

I booked a room at the Roundhouse Hotel, with a beautiful view of the town’s creek and little waterfall. It was lovely. All night I could hear the water. Ben would have loved it. It was difficult to move beyond the despair of those thoughts. I am grateful that I am a person who has no problem doing things on my own. Actually, I enjoy spending time with myself. Still, I felt a little alone. I was saddened by missing Ben and the weekends we will never have, as well as the thought that I might never again have romance and someone special with whom to travel.

The view out my window.

Walt Disney said, “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” In the past year, I have made a lot of strides in my desire to write picture books. I even formed a critique group. This retreat certainly acknowledged my love for Ben and acknowledgment of the date, but, here in the present, it was also part of my “doing.” I kept my focus on reading and writing and how fortunate I was to have a beautiful view from my window and a sweet town to explore. I brought my book with me to read in cafes and at meals. I was sure to be back in my room to have plenty of time to write in the late afternoon and evening. As it turned out, I made great progress with my stories, not only working on one that is in almost final form, but also developing two other ideas.

Today, I woke up and wished Ben a happy birthday. I felt his presence. When I took my seat on the train, I put on my headphones and played The Beatles “Birthday,” as he always played it for me. Then, I listened to our favorite Disney instrumental albums, gazed out the window and also finished my book. It felt right. As right as life can be without him.

Returning home to the cocoon of my memories is also retreating to the way I have previously coped with my grief. My go-to on days like this is watching the videos that I created of Ben moments, and watching Ben’s favorite films. As I write this, Monsters Inc. is playing in the background. I do like these moments of communing with my memories, even if they bring tears.

Don’t we all wish we had that chip to reunite us, if only for a moment?

I am always most moved by the scene where Mike gets Sully that one missing piece of Boo’s door that allows him to reunite with Boo. I wish I had that little piece of a door. It seems that these milestone days open the door, but I am reminded that my loved ones are not really there. Just the memories. They simply are not always enough. Especially in February, when that’s all I have.

February will likely always be a melancholy month filled with the sorrow that all those beloved people are gone. Still, I must find the pixie dust. In Up, Ellie left a final message for Carl that said, “Thanks for the adventure. Now go and have a new one.”  I wanted to have a little getaway and to have some time to work on my writing in a different venue. In fact, that was a positive experience, and I am already thinking about my next little self-care and creativity getaway. It is a reminder that, as Joy and Sadness learn in Inside Out, sometimes joy arises from or coincides with anguish in unexpected ways. At least I know I have a huge cheering section of grim, grinning ghosts.

Happy Birthday, My Mickey! I hope you are singing and running, banging on drums and playing the soprano sax, eating everything your heart desires. I love you “To Infinity and Beyond.”

ALS,Caregiving,Grief,Walt Disney World, Disney
My silly Ben with his buddy, Buzz.