I admit it, Kiddo. I'm not as sharp as I used to be, and neither are my memories of you. The effect of advancing age, I expect -- and stubborn self-protection. That said, a few things still cut close to the bone. Your birthday, for example, March eighth, 4:44 p.m. Those tiny, bloody fists, trembling, flailing, furious (at the loss of your cradling salty sea, at the intrusion of the baying lupine world?) Equally keen comes the tart memory of your lemon-puckered adolescent smirk, your sour disdain sufficient to sap the last drop of my limited patience. And how could I forget your appalling table manners, that cacophonous slur of sibilant slurps, your "kiss my ass! These eats are seriously good!" attitude? Or the deathbed rattle of your unconscious gasps thirty-four years later, those "for god's sake, enough already" final sighs and moans? These things slice sharp and true. Others, not so much. And yes, sometimes there is guilt in this creeping forgetfulness. After all, what kind of father lets his son slip away like that? What kind of Dad doesn't go the last mile for the sake of blood? My kind, I guess. The selfish kind (as you and your sister must've thought)? The kind who clings to a well-rehearsed refrain: "I have a life, too!" and just won't let go? But just so you know: I sometimes feel the sting of it -- enough for a good wallow in charges brought against me: Such a shocking lack of fatherly compassion! Such a breath-taking display of self-indulgence! (Ah, thank god for self-deprecation -- Surely the penultimate in pre-emptive strikes!) But, in fairness, Kiddo, what self-pleasuring has ever been more sating, more ratifying than, "Oh my god, s/he/it is so much worse than I"? I mean, isn't judgment the essence of human nature? And yes, I know that all sounds exculpatory. Nevertheless, here's the point I'd like to make -- call it a birthday wish if you want, albeit a self-serving one, I'll admit: I hope to do your memory the justice you deserve. And allow myself a modest measure in that as well. I'd like to reconcile the limits of a love that couldn't save you, or keep you sane and safe in this broken-hearted world. I'd like to entertain the notion that perhaps -- just perhaps -- not everyone born in love was meant to linger in this life, not everyone suited to the long haul? And that what transpired between us -- all the despair, the loss, the grief -- was a lesson in the rightful margins of love, yours as well as mine. I like to think that I'm on to something here. But it's a hard sell -- even for me; a bit too inchoate, too lenient, too wishful thinking? That said, Birthday Boy, I'll try for any port in this lingering storm.