I turned 35 on Friday. I was really anxious about it because it was my first birthday since my grandmother passed away. I was scared I was going to have a crying fit or just be really sad all day.
Neither of those things happened. Instead, I had possibly the best birthday of my entire life. My best friend threw a bowling party for me complete with a birthday button that lights up, presents, and a ton of food: two flavors of wings, sliders, pizza and chips and dip (all of which were surprisingly delicious).
I love bowling so this was the perfect party for me, but it had a special significance because when my grandmother died, I learned she’d been a member of her company’s bowling league before she retired. Now, every time I bowl, I think of her.
After my bowling party was over, it was turn up time. I made a reservation for bottle service at this lounge called Boogalou. It cost more than I wanted to spend, but was still reasonable compared to other places in Atlanta. Friday night was the first time I’ve ever had bottle service for myself. I’ve experienced bottle service before at someone else’s birthday party and in Vegas for a bachelorette party, but it’s different when it’s for you. I initially balked at the cost, but then I thought, You’re 35. You’ve earned this. And let me tell you, it’s some of the best money I’ve ever spent.
Don’t get me wrong, while I was eating lunch on Friday, I did get sad about my grandmother for a bit. But then I realized, in some ways, my current relationship with her is even better than the one I would have with her if she was alive. If my grandmother was still alive, due to her dementia, she would have no idea who I am and therefore, I wouldn’t have heard from her on my birthday. But now that she’s gone, I believe she’s always with me, so I felt close to her all day. I felt like she was watching me at my birthday parties and smiling at how much fun I was having.
My therapist has talked to me about what I think my grandmother would want for me in terms of grieving her death. I know my grandmother wouldn’t want me to be sad for the rest of my life. She’d want me to find joy in my heart again and live my life.
At this point, I’m not sure what stage of grief I’m in. I haven’t broken down crying in awhile, but I don’t believe those days are over. My next hurdle is Christmas. I’m not sure how I’m going to feel because if my grandmother was still alive, I’d be visiting her in her nursing home. Since I can’t do that, I want to find another way to remember/honor her. I’m just not sure how yet.
There’s one last thing I want to share with you all. As some of you may know, every seven years, all of the cells in your body have regenerated, so you’re a completely new person. Since I turned a multiple of seven this year, I want the new me to do something that matters. I want to take the opportunity to shine a light on something. 35 is the life expectancy of a trans woman of color and it’s going to take the willingness of myself, as a cisgender ally, and other cisgender people, to dismantle toxic masculinity and trans exclusionary “radical feminism” to change this horrific statistic because we’re the ones with the privilege (in this instance). I hope you’ll join me in this fight. We’ve got a long road ahead of us.