Sunday was my dad's birthday. It didn't go as planned.
Have you seen the movie (500) Days of Summer? It's one of my all-time favorites. There's a scene near the end (spoiler alert) where the heartbroken hipster Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) goes to a party at the apartment of his ex-girlfriend, the unattainable dreamgirl Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel.) As Tom arrives at the party, the screen splits in two.
On one side, captioned "expectations" we see what Tom hoped would happen: Summer spends the entire night at his side, the spark between them re-ignites and they live happily ever after. The other half of the screen is labeled "reality": he goes to the party, stands alone by the bar, and from across the room notices Summer showing off the sparkly engagement ring she just got from her new boyfriend. It's a powerful and poignant sequence that breaks your heart without a single word of dialogue.
That's how I felt last weekend. In my head there was a split screen playing two different scenarios, the one I planned and the reality.
The plans that I made, 2 months ago, included me showing up at my parents' house wearing a loose-fitting dress to hide my growing baby bump. My eagle-eyed mother would have noticed my increased girth and cocked an eyebrow but would have wisely held her tongue. We would have arrived on Saturday and given my dad his birthday card immediately, and he would've grumbled, "I can't open this yet, my birthday's not until tomorrow." But I would have been bursting with excitement, unable to keep my amazing secret one minute longer and would have insisted he open the darn thing right away.
Inside the card would have been an ultrasound image of his first grandchild, and the words "Happy Birthday Grampa." It was how I planned to announce the good news. There would have been much rejoicing. We'd have spent the weekend talking about names, nurseries, and nannies.
Reality matched my expectations about as closely as Tom Hansen's did.
We got there on Saturday and I was wearing a loose-fitting dress (why is it so much harder to lose the baby weight than it was to lose the baby?), but the similarities end there. I didn't even give my dad a birthday card; I couldn't stand to see him open it knowing that there should have been a miracle inside, but wasn't. Instead of rejoicing there was forced festivity and stilted conversations that veered uncomfortably away from any mention of babies, children or pregnancy.
I never got the chance to tell my parents I was pregnant. Instead I had to call them last month with the news I had miscarried. My father cried.
I know he doesn't blame me, but I felt like such a failure. Like I had let him down.
At the very end of the movie, Tom finally recovers from his broken heart, comes to terms with the fact that his romance with Summer was not meant to be, and is offered a hint of hope that there's been something (or someone) better for him out there all along.
Maybe I really am like Tom. Right now my heart is broken and I feel like staying in bed all day drinking whiskey and eating snack cakes. I can't see beyond my disappointment. But eventually I'll shake off the funk and accept that some things are simply not meant to be. And have faith that my something better will reveal itself when the time is right.
Happy Birthday, Dad. I love you.