I celebrate the birth, eighty-one years ago today, of the man with whom my life has been entwined. I celebrate his mother, the woman whose husband said he wanted no children, the woman who was left alone to call a cab to get to the hospital, who labored and tore and embraced and nursed the man-child she took home and named—first name for his father, middle name for what he was to her—Joy.
I celebrate their survival, enduring grim poverty as she drove a dynamite truck and worked in the slaughterhouse and kept books for the kind auto salesman who sometimes came with bags of groceries.
I celebrate what it took to finally get a little house with a white picket fence, to fight to get her son to a better high school, to see him go off to college, to suddenly learn that at the age of nineteen he wanted to marry and to keep panic at bay until she could see what he found.
I celebrate that she took me in as a daughter, that our children got to experience her profound love, that until nearly the end she went dancing on Saturday nights. She gave me the birthday I celebrate now, eighty-one years later.
I celebrate Joy.