If you had not died of AIDS two weeks before your 35th birthday, you would be turning 50 years old today.  Regardless, I have brought you with me to the sea and beach to, if not celebrate, be together in a timeless, peaceful place accompanied by the music of the waves.

Although you never came to this exact spot, you were my water baby from 18 months old when I took you to swimming lessons.  Swimming together became a bond between us wherever we found water.

My favorite writing bench looks out today on a sea scene of muted oneness.  The sky is not bright blue as it often is.  A light blue-grey blends the sea with the sky and the clouds into a monochrome painting of moody beauty.  The cloudy sky does not totally obscure sparkles in the sea from where the sun peeks out.

I wish I had known you better.  But our choices — you to live with your dad, and mine to follow my wanderlust around the world — separated us geographically.  Your refusal in your grown-up years to have contact precluded a relationship.

But you did re-connect to me when your HIV became AIDS.  In those days, that meant a death sentence that few could outrun.  Your occasional phone calls and one visit during those two years gave me a thread of a relationship to hang onto.

I learned more about you after you died and I was finally able to go to your Castro Street apartment in San Francisco.  I knew from our phone conversations that you loved living in that community and environment you felt totally connected to.  I could see your artistic qualities in the very deliberate way you arranged unusual vignettes in your rooms.  Most of all, I appreciated the most recent years of letters I had never stopped sending you through your father.  The open envelopes finally answered my question – “Had you read them?”

As the crows, sea gulls, and pelicans fly into my view, I remember you best as that honey-colored, handsome little boy I had first met as a curious toddler.  You were as playful as the birds I see gliding to and fro, up and down, in the air currents.

There is a lot about us that is painfully sad, and will always remain so, but there had also been joy and happiness in the 10 years we lived together when I had been a stay-at-home mom.  Perhaps the best memories are from our summers discovering Puget Sound, camping all over the U.S., and our travels to faraway places like Kenya.

There is a pastel spreading an orangey background behind some of the clouds while the sun stays higher up.  There is a fog bank on the horizon, perhaps waiting to move closer in to Laguna Beach.  Light and color are two extreme joys to our eyes.  I value it more than ever since my eyesight is failing.  I want to lock every view in so my brain can recall it even when my eyes won’t be able to see it.

I’m 74 now — far from that mother you mostly remember.  I was not your only mother.  I wonder if the birth mother neither of us knew remembers today is your 50th birthday. What does she imagine about the son she gave up at birth?  I’m glad she doesn’t know you are dead.

There were 8 years after you died that I couldn’t write to you, or about you.  And then, I could.  The words flowed out of me almost every evening for one year.  It turned that year into one of my happiest years.  Not only were we talking through writing, but I was able to tell you things I had never told you before.  Raised by a pessimistic mother, I was more than a little pessimistic.  But that year of writing “Out of Step:  A Diary To My Dead Son” was the most optimistic year of my life.

And now the sun has broken through the clouds and laid a sparkling path across the sea from the sun that reaches all the way to the beach below me.  Could I just hop, run, skip my way across the ocean and reach you?

Happy Birthday, my dear son.  You are not motherless, and I am not childless.




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