Friday was Dave's birthday. He would've been 41. I met him nearly 20 years ago. These three facts feel impossible. The day I met him feels like yesterday. I will always think of him as the 23 year old I first met. And his birthday keeps showing up to remind me that I'll soon be older than he ever got to be.
He was a sweet, chubby baby. His aunt found him irresistible and would go into his room even when he was sleeping to squeeze him.
He was a lefty and when he was very small, his parents would hand him a spoon to eat with - offering it to his right hand. He would just sit there, with the spoon in his hand until they finally thought to put it in his left hand and he could finally go to town with it.
Once when he was tiny, after being told that the family would not be having waffles that morning, he pointed at each of them in turn and squeeked "I hate you, and you, and you, and you." He really loved waffles. And pies. And doughnuts.
He was an old soul from the beginning, reminding his mom to wear her seatbelt when he was too small to put his own on himself.
He would save and scrimp to buy himself something and then find it on sale. He had a very simple taste in clothing and things. Safety and practicality were essential. He didn't abide by any foolishness or wastefulness. He would go to bed at night nearly fully dressed so he could be prepared in case of emergency. I never did figure out what he thought that emergency might be.
He worked his way through college, completely supporting himself. He was the most hardworking man I knew. He loved our cats with his entire heart. He could laugh at himself, especially if I laughed first.
He had a very unrefined palate. Anything a 5 year old would love to eat - that was his diet. Mac and cheese, chicken tenders, fries. Corn was his go-to veggie.
We almost always cooked separate meals because I had the adventurous palate.
He could use sign language. He'd sign "I love you" to me frequently. He'd finger spell certain words to me in public if he wanted to tell me secrets. He'd rather have been with me than anyone else on the planet.
After being with me, he was happiest in a boat or on the shore of a river, fishing. He owned more than one boat and about four thousand rods, reels, and tackle boxes full of lures and anything else you can imagine having to do with fishing.
He had a sweet soul and he loved me dearly.
On the 41st anniversary of his birth, I felt, yet again, how his very being is woven into mine. He is not physically here, but he is here, within me.
That's what happens when we go. We leave behind parts of us in those we loved.