On June 2, 1986, John and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary in our little condo in Santa Ana, CA. We were babies.

Apparently, cotton is the tradition (gift) for that 2nd year. I just learned that this very minute. That seems right since I had stacks of soft cotton receiving blankets in the nursery. My mom swaddled our five-day-old, Joey, in the next room while we celebrated. She stayed with us a week or so showing me the ropes of what it was to take care of my baby. What it was to be a mom. I don’t think she covered everything.

John and I celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary in a few days. We’re no longer babies and it’s not cotton this time; ruby is the official gift. I just found that out this minute, too, and I remember that I inherited a couple of ruby pieces of my mom’s jewelry after she passed not long ago. Thank you for the anniversary gift, Mom, I think I’ll wear them on Sunday. It’s perfect, I don’t need another ruby.

A photo/keepsake album sits on the shelf in Joey’s old room: On the front, it reads, “Our Baby’s First Seven Years.” I peeked at a few pages recently. In it is a baggie of auburn locks from his first haircut. Before the cut, if you’d gently tug the curls down, they went to the middle of his back.

Today Joey would have been 38 years old.

I have some ideas about how I might fill this day.

I’ll read passages from Gibran’s The Prophet, a book he gave me and a book I cherish.

I’ll read my framed, handwritten letter from him, the one that ends with the acronym—our code—for “I love you all the way up to God back down again.”

He and John surfed together so that seems right. Maybe I’ll even paddle out, myself—exhaust my arms, and get salt in my eyes just for Joey.

We’ll sit on the couch and watch one of his favorite films (“On the Waterfront”? “Citizen Kane?”) while impolitely eating “The Joey Special”: heavily buttered, salted, cayenne peppered, coconut oiled, etc. popcorn layered with the game changer—Lay’s BBQ potato chips, all of this in the16 Qt stainless steel mixing bowl. We always needed that big, shiny bowl.

If I can, I’ll watch a scene from something he was in. I loved his performance in “Bones,” so maybe that. I think I can do that. I think.

Joey didn’t have much of a sweet tooth—wasn’t even one for birthday cake—but he did like mint chocolate chip ice cream, so I’ll have a dish and call it the cake.

I’ll listen to some music he turned me onto, like Jack Johnson or Sufjan Stevens. Definitely “Beam of Light” by Joey’s friends, what a sacred gift that was to us.

Last night, I got a surprise birthday eve gift. Since Joey passed seventeen months and six days ago, I’ve rifled through everything, desperately hunting for the “mix tape” (CD) he’d burned for me years ago. He made it specifically for a solo road trip I was about to take—wanted me to have some good music as I drove up the coast and titled it, “Drive it Up.” I’d spent hours and hours scouring my iTunes library and collection of physical CDs…and eventually gave up.

Last night I just happened upon it, wasn’t even looking. I recall that’s often how blessings come.

Today I’m going to thank God He gave me a son, a son I have always and will forever love all the way up to God, back down again.  Here as in heaven, I celebrate my boy with the auburn locks.