Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The big 4-0

July 26, 2017 would have been Warren's 40th birthday.

When he turned thirty, I threw him a surprise party. It was a big deal. His dad came from Arizona, his cousin came from Moline, IL and some of my family came from Chicago. We had a house full of friends and I achieved my goal of surprising him. It was a great time. His bright smile was plastered on his face all night. To this day friends remember that party and comment about how much fun they had and how Warren glowed with happiness.

Warren arrives - SURPRISE!
It may be strange, but on that night I started thinking about doing the same thing for his fortieth. I wanted to fill the house with the same love and celebration. I didn't get as far as imagining all the details but there was one thing I knew for sure - my plan was to see him smile like that. Little did I know that every day I would long to see that smile again. 

That party was built around things he loved. I ordered food from his favorite restaurant. I got the cake from the same baker we used for our wedding. All his friends, co-workers and fellow volunteers were invited. I made sure the tequila and beer flowed and the house filled with people who loved him and helped him welcome the milestone birthday.

At his fave hot dog stand in AZ
A few weeks ago I wondered what his fortieth party would look like. Some things would definitely be different. For starters, there would be a lot more children celebrating with us. He loved being a dad and uncle and our family has grown by many little ones since that party. Our friends have changed. Some of them have moved away, others have moved closer. We met lots of people and lost touch with others.We had traveled and I would incorporate some of those experiences, perhaps reflected in the food and drinks, like serving Amarula from S. Africa, Sherry from Spain, and more from places we had planned on visiting, like Brazil and China. Every place we went he liked to find street food. His favorite was hot dogs. I would have honored that with a hot dog bar with the various toppings we'd had on our travels and ordered the sweet buns he loved when we visited El Guero Canelo hot dog cart in Tucson.

In my head, I can see the party, lit up by his smile. I feel the warmth of love from our friends and family coming together again to celebrate his life and I know that he would have made sure everyone felt welcome and comfortable, connecting our various groups of friends as he so often did.

Life didn't offer this vision to come to pass. Instead, I am traveling for work and my mom is hosting a hot dog dinner for the kids to keep his memory alive in our family. As I work, keep the antacids close to juggle the arrangements of the second annual Warren Morrow Latin Music Festival from one-thousand miles away. I will celebrate him in a more personal way with memories and the letter I write him every year on his birthday to catch him up on life and bleed my grief on to a page between me and him. I will cry on my boyfriend's shoulder and feel grateful to have someone like him who insisted on traveling with me so I would not be alone on this day. I will smile because I am happy and life is difficult and hectic but good in so many ways. I will be thankful that I got ten years of him in my life, and celebrate the person his influence helped shape. I may even splurge on a brownie, his favorite dessert.

I love you Mi Amor and wish I could hug you and see you smile on your 40th. Happy Birthday! I hope you are celebrating in bliss, knowing that your legacy lives on in those of us who love you and think of you often as a role model and example of kindness, integrity, and selflessness. 

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