Today would have been your 67th birthday. You had so many plans for your retirement years. Unfortunately, a lot of those hopes and dreams included Mom, but she was taken from all of us much too soon. Still, for 20 years, you managed raising a child, working a full-time job, and dealing with all that life dropped at your door with little more than a resigned sigh and the set of your jaw that we all knew was a sign you meant business.
I know it wasn’t easy on you. I was on the receiving end of many, many telephone calls where we discussed how desperately you missed Mom, how completely out of your element you felt raising a daughter on your own, how you were going to manage the strength to deal with it all just one more day. I tried my best to give you advice, not that a daughter in her late 20s and early 30s had sound advice to give, considering I was dealing with my own issues with being a parent and raising a child and not knowing what the blazes I was doing.
Somehow though, we made it through. “That which does not kill you makes you stronger,” right Dad? I loved how we used to laugh on the phone at each other’s “problem of the day” because it simply made whatever we were going through seem that less troublesome.
I wish I’d come home more often. I wish that I’d lived closer so that I could have helped you with raising Danielle after Mom died. There were times when I did consider moving back home, but for whatever reasons, I just never did. I wish that I’d answered all of your calls. There were times when I was tired and just did not feel like talking for hours on end, when I just did not answer the phone. I regret that most of all I think – that I did not take the chance to spend just a little while longer with you – even if it was just over the telephone.
I miss you. I miss Mom. I wish so many things, but mostly I wish that losing you both did not hurt so much. It isn’t as hard for me as it is for Danielle, simply because I’m not surrounded every day by the memories. She feels the pain of losing you every single day that she opens her eyes. Sitting out on the front porch, riding through the fields to the campsite, walking the Forest & Water Road, just walking through the house, or simply to and from the mailbox. No matter where she turns, where she looks, where she goes – there is a memory, always, of you or mom or both of you. My pain comes and goes, and for the most part I think I’m managing well. Until your birthday comes, or a holiday, or Mom’s birthday. Not only does it stir the pain in my heart, but there is an added level of pain and sadness knowing how Danielle is feeling too. I wish I could take that from her. I wish that I could trade places with her, and that I could shoulder her pain and her hurt for just awhile, to give her a respite.
Thank you Dad, for everything that you did for us while Stan and I were growing up and then when Danielle came along as well. I cannot begin to tell you just how wonderful my memories of our family camping trips to Locust Lake State Park and Christmas in September at Knoebel’s Grove every year are and how very much those memories mean to me. I regret not making memories like those with my own children. I sometimes think that, had I put my foot down and made them participate in the same activities that I did as a child, perhaps things would be different for them right now. I guess I will never know.
We’ve had our issues over the years, and there were times when I didn’t want to even look at you (and I’m sure you didn’t want to have to see me either!), but that never meant I stopped loving you. You were the only father I knew practically my entire childhood. You married Mom when I was 5 and Stan was just 3, and with two little words, you had a ready-made family to worry about instead of just your bride. I know – now – that it’s one of the reasons that Mom loved you so fiercely. Not many men – then or now – are willing to take on. You never made us feel as though we didn’t belong because in your mind, we were your kids, biologically or not. You loved us deeply, taught us right from wrong, and defended us with a passion that a lot of parents never seem to develop.
So today, I just wanted to say thank you – for everything – and wish you a very Happy Birthday. I know that you and Mom are looking down on us, keeping watch over Stan and Danielle and I as well as your grandchildren. Kiss Mom for me, and give Nana and Grandad a big hug and kiss from me too. I hope the angels throw you one hell of a birthday party today, and I’m going to imagine that the warm sunbeams shining down upon me is due to the fun that you’re having in heaven today.
Happy Birthday Dad. I love you – always and forever.