The loss of a loved one is no easy pain to deal with, especially if you have lost a parent. Today would have been my father’s 50th birthday. The last 15 years of my life have been filled with happiness, pain, struggle, fun and questions that will forever remain unanswered. As I sit here today writing this, I think about how different my life would be today if you were here. These are silly thoughts based off illusion and fond memories. The evolution of my life thus far could soley be based off your birthday. For five years after you passed your birthday was just another simple day. Nothing more than, “what’s todays date?” or “its june already?”. But on that sixth year I aquaired new knowledge that would forever change my life. At 11 years old, June 10th became your birthday to me and all thoughts and emotions associated with you would consume my time and drive me insane with anger, resentment, frustration, confusion and a feeling of want and justification. I was angry with myself for naively wishing for you to return and fix the shattered mess of our family. The circumstance of your death caused an inexhaustible amount of animostiy between two families brought together by love and marriage. The end result, a cataclysmic relationship built out of ignorance, lack of understanding and compassion, and abhorrence. I could sit here all day and type out how I feel the quandary should have been handled, but that doesn’t change the reality of the situation. There I was, 11 years old, knowingly HIV positive, afraid, lost, and thrown into a turmoil that I whole heartedly would’ve done anything to avoid. To the best of my ability, that is exactly what I did. I put on my happy face and pushed away all confrontation and pain regarding your life and your death. From my experience, you cannot run away and hide from your troubles. Sooner or later they will come around to daunt and berate you. It is best to acknowledge and become aware of your feelings and to address them. Advice I still very seldomly follow. My plan was to coast through life avoiding the realization that I am HIV positive and that alone shredded a ‘normal’ family to pieces. I resented every aspect of you for a very long time and refused to admit it. Avoidance seemed the easiest route to take and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still follow that option. I have always been told that if you were here you would be enraged with the situation that has unfolded since your death. This has never seemed valid to me because I don’t really know who you were and while there is a multitude of people who could explain this to me, I never really experienced your being. Because of this I have always viewed you as a static character in a book; never changing and solely encompassed with faded memories glazed over by the warming joy of my childhood. This idea of you has always caused me conflict because I am unsure how I should view you. All of these feelings I have had bottled inside for so long with only myself to validate them. I know now that the validity of my feelings are for myself alone and I should not let them be affected by anyone’s elses thoughts or opinions. My opinion and view of you needs to be my own free from other influences, outside opinions and perspectives. I believe that is where my confusion and frustration lies, because I choose to ignore what I feel to be true and listen to other’s thoughts and opinions over my own. Today I have decided that I am going to be the best person I can be for myself. For too long I have focused my thoughts and emotions on the negative aspects of my life and that has drained me enough. The variation of emotions surrounding your death have caused an uproar of altercation within our family and I have been thrown in the middle much to my dismay, but I now understand that I only have control over myself. I cannot control how grandma and grandpa feel towards my mom and her side of the family and I cannot change it regardless of my opinion and vise versa. What I can do is change my outlook on your birthday. It has been 50 years since you were born and 15 years since you passed away and there is one aspect of your personality that everyone seems to agree on. You always lived life to the fullest. My mom believes that I obtained this characteristic from you and I believe it is a wonderful view to have. With all that being said, I have decided to change my outlook on your birthday. Death is a natural inevitable occurrence that everyone faces. Many people are afraid of death and it is surrounded with morose and negative thoughts. The past 15 years without you here has been mournful to say the least, but with those feelings has come growth and understanding in not only myself but my family and friends around me. While I wish you were here to experience the wonders and beauty of life with me I know that you would not want me to shy away from experience or opportunity and you would certainly not want me to be grieving my life away. It has taken me the majority of my life to realize that I forgive you and I don’t blame you anymore for what happened because I do believe that everything happens for a reason. In conclusion and in honor of your 50th birthday I am going to celebrate your life. Life is short and instead of focusing on the negative and the worries we should all strive to focus on the positive and live every day to the fullest and always celebrate life. Anchovy pizza and cheesecake here I come!! I love you dad and I know you are watching over me and my mom and enjoying your birthday.