Our Story Begins:
A Birthday Breakthrough


For the past three years, on July 1st,  I’ve left town.  I don’t just leave and come back but have an off the path, away from home adventure.

This year was different not because of the place, the time or the reason.  It was different because, well, I’m different.

July 1st is my birthday.  I say this not for glorification of my age, which I tend to ignore.  The reason I even bring it up is because I, for the two years prior, was alone on my birthday.

There were two reasons I was alone.  First, my wife passed away on March 26th of 2011.  Second, in order to work during the summer when the kids are out of school, my parents volunteer to watch them.  Since their home is four states away, I don’t have the kids around me on that birthday.

This year, though, two things were different.  My oldest daughter, Abbi, stayed in town to work before she heads off to college; and I’m just a different person now.

So with no event or agenda in hand, I spent my weekend in San Francisco with my daughter, and, thus, the birthday activities that only the City by the Bay could deliver that led to my breakthrough.


Gay Pride Day

The trip made for amazing people watching.  I had forgotten that the federal appeals court had just allowed gay marriage to resume in California and we were in the City by the Bay on the very weekend of the Gay Pride Parade.  We saw gay couples – and not-at-all gay people wanting to find reason to celebrate – wandering the streets.

Read more:  Our Story Begins: Give Dads A Chance


italian restaurant

We ate at the Little Griddle on Market street, with the most amazing of hamburgers I’ve had in years.  We had chocolates from the candy shop two doors down, and Eclairs at the French bakery.

Walking home we found a small printing company, using a block press, and met with an artist inside who had created much of the work on display.  We walked through Chinatown, where Abbi had never ventured.  We walked down Columbus and picked a random Italian restaurant and had the most amazing dinner we’d had in a long time.

Read more:  Our Story Begins: Hannah And The Homework Hassle


wax museum

At the end of the trek, we wandered the Piers and played in the Musee Mechanique.  Abbi and I were the only two people to go into the wax museum, and we poked fun at the Ricky Martin mannequin who looked more like Matt Damon.  We posed like the figurines and reacted to fake meetings displayed in the room.

Read more:   Our Story Begins: Daddy Style: 5 Easy Dinners You Can Make At Home (VIDEO)




The next day, we visited the Presidio’s Walt Disney Family Museum and explored an exhibit filled with artwork by Maurice Sendak.  I got to tell Abbi how my mother read Chicken Soup With Rice to me because she said I looked like the little boy in the book.  I explained how I have the book and read it to her and will read it to my grandkids when they come.

Then we saw Sendak on a video screen talk about having lost his loved ones: “I cry a lot because I miss people.  They die and I can’t stop them.  They leave me and I love them more…what I dread is the isolation.”

That struck a chord with me.  Not because Abbi’s presence there eliminated isolation; I’m just not isolated any more.  The reality is that my birthday, for the first time in many, many years, was far more enjoyable.  The last two years I enjoyed my birthday, this time I experienced it.

Life, you see, isn’t isolation.  I’m not isolated.  The first year, maybe more, after losing Andrea, I was going through the motions.  Today, with our lives, our loves, our family changing every month . . . I live.  I’m a year older, but I don’t feel old.  I still pick up the guitar and dream of playing on stage again.  I write and dream of getting published.  I have the same ideals and core desires I had at my daughter’s age; it’s only when I see the specks of grey mixed with my black hair and remember the bulging discs in my back that remind me I’m not young any more.

But I don’t care, I’m not a kid, no, but I still have a lust for life.

Read more:   Our Story Begins: The Mommy Montage.. A Dad’s Perspective


What about you?  Is your birthday a day of dread, or do you dream?  Do you complain you’re getting older or do you find stories and experiences to tell?

More from GEM:

PLAY NICE! And 9 More Life Lessons From Disney

Monday Morning Motivation: If You Build It (WELL), They Will Come 

Do You Have GUNS In Your House? No, Really. I’m Asking.



Dave Manoucheri framed headshot

Dave Manoucheri is a writer, journalist and musician based in Sacramento, California.  A father of four, two daughters and twin sons, his blog, Our Story Begins is a chronicle of their life after the loss of his wife, Andrea, in March of 2011. Follow him on Twitter @InvProducerMan.