A Birthday Remembrance for my Son

©2015 by Jack A. Urquhart

Dillon collage 2

700 words

Today is my son’s birthday.

Dillon Tyler Urquhart was born March 8, 1979, in Boulder, Colorado. Had he lived, he would’ve been 36 years old—more than old enough to be a father himself. Instead, his short life was marked by a series of hopeful embarkations—jobs, relationships, educational opportunities—that too frequently ended in a crash and burn.

Many years ago, one of my son’s early therapists ventured that Dillon was a cautious, easily frustrated child, and that he often seemed averse to new things—as if his timing was a bit off.

Her observations had basis in fact. From Jump Street, Dill was pissed-off and running late.

Due to make his world debut on March 7th, he made us wait—just as he often did in later years—putting his mother through some 14+ hours of labor before he came yowling into the world. These would become patterns during his short time on earth—the reticence and push back, the periodic meltdowns.

His mother, my ex-wife, who is something of a Mystagogue and a woman of sometimes unsettling intuitive powers, believes that from the moment of his birth, Dill embarked upon a lifelong protest march.

“He was a discontented old soul,” my ex-wife claims to this day.

Her ‘heightened sense’ is that Dillon must’ve been ready to move on to a higher ‘spiritual plane’ when, much to his dismay, another tiresome human incarnation presented itself—which is why, she ‘reasons’, Dillon came into the world fists flailing and shrieking like a monk in an earthquake[1]. It is also, she concludes, the reason he followed such a difficult life path—“because he never really wanted to be here!”

A confirmed agnostic, I do not know what to make of my Ex’s ‘New Agey’ take on the life and times of our first-born. What I do know is that Dill could be a colossal pain. Sometimes, he was just plain gross, or fastidious, or irascible, or delightful, or selfish, or surprisingly generous. Other times, he was a loving son, an affectionate, caring brother to his younger sister, kind and attentive to his friends. Which is by way of saying that he was a human being, and thus, a walking, talking, living, breathing ball of contradictions—sometimes this, sometimes that.

The fact of his mental illness—bi-polarity diagnosed in his early twenties, the onset of schizophrenia in his early thirties—contributed to the difficult path that Dillon trod and to the many burned bridges in his wake.

But, so what! We loved him. And that, dearly—if often imperfectly.

He died in Seattle of a drug overdose on August 2, 2013—hopefully moving (finally!) on to that higher spiritual plane his mother envisioned. She was at his bedside. As was his sister.  So was I.

My memories of that long and exhausting vigil are sketchy, but I recall that we laughed as much as we cried, all the old family stories in those last hours returning to demand retelling.

Like Dill’s well-deserved title as the undisputed Flatulence King of the universe; like all the times he took pride in demonstrating that indecorous birth right—usually in the most embarrassing and/or unpleasant contexts: restaurants, closed automobiles, at the dinner table. His motives, aside from causing us distress, were always a mystery to me. Likewise, I have no explanation other than crushing exhaustion and grief for our behavior in the ICU that last day—my ex-wife and I, and our unseemly laughter. Only that we couldn’t help ourselves,  couldn’t hold back; because even there, even in his death throes, the kid was still at it—still exercising his tooty ‘royal’ prerogatives. So we laughed. Laughed till we cried. Because it was either that or fall to pieces.

I confess that even now, these 18 months on, not much has changed; the memories still seem funny—funny enough to bring on tears.

All normal, I expect.

But we go on. We keep living and recollecting.

Which is why I write today: to breathe some life back into memory. Dillon’s memory.

Happy Birthday wishes, Dear Son.

And for us, your family and friends, still residing on this earthly ‘plane’—many happy remembrances of the day.


[1] From Stephen Crane’s Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1893)


About jaurquhart

Jack Andrew Urquhart was born in the American South. Following undergraduate work at the University of Florida, Gainesville, he taught in Florida's public schools. He earned a Master of Arts degree in English, Creative Writing, from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he was the winner of the Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Award for Fiction (1991). His work has appeared online at Clapboard House Literary Journal, Crazyhorse Literary Journal, and Standards: The International Journal of Multicultural Studies. He is the author of So They Say, a collection of self-contained, inter-connected stories and the short story, They Say You Can Stop Yourself Breathing. Formerly a writing instructor at the University of Colorado’s Writing Program, Mr. Urquhart was, until 2010, a senior analyst for the Judicial Branch of California. He resides in Washington State.
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2 Responses to A Birthday Remembrance for my Son

  1. TermiteWriter says:

    Another touching post, Jack. This one I AM going to share.

  2. Beautifully written, Jack.

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