My dad’s 87th birthday was Monday. Wow. I can’t even begin to imagine him at 87; to me, I guess, he’ll always be 73 at the most, which is not a bad thing: he never grew feeble in mind or body, and I never had to watch him suffer though a terminal illness. In fact, this week I’ve been remembering that I have so many things to be grateful for, that I am so blessed in the love and caring of my family and friends, and have been all my life.
On Monday, thinking about my dad, I realized that the flip side of the terrible agony of grief and loss is the comfort of memories; so often I feel my dad’s presence and know that he’s with me, and when I go over the times we shared together I feel immense gratitude that I was blessed with such a terrific dad (thanks, God!). The first few years after he died, the anniversary of his death (Jan. 12) was always such a painful day. In many ways, it felt as though the wound was reopened all over again, every year. But gradually, without my realizing it was happening, celebrating his birthday has come to seem the more natural thing to do, which, I guess, is how it should be: those we love are gifts from God, and should be celebrated and enjoyed as such!
June has always been my dad’s month, in my mind. I think it’s because both Father’s Day and his birthday come so close together. On gorgeous summer days like this, when the sky is blue, the air is warm, and the birds sing, and the scent of roses and mown grass is in the air, I remember my father, and I am happy.
There’s a lovely old WWII-era song that has come to remind me of my dad:
I’ll be seeing you
in all the old familiar places
that this heart of mine embraces
all day through.
In that small cafe
the park across the way
the children’s carousel
the chestnut trees
the wishing well.
I’ll be seeing you
in every lovely summer’s day
in everything that’s bright and gay
I’ll always think of you that way…
So many memories to take out and cherish, one by one: pink dresses…”walking on ice”…sitting on his lap drinking grape juice out of my bottle (my earliest memory of all)…getting my tricycle…long walks through the neighborhood, me pushing my pink plastic doll buggy, stopping at the corner store for orange dreamsicles..the Shrine Circus (an annual father-daughter trip)…fishing…trips with mom and dad and Bridget (our dog) up to Blue Lake Resort…the State Fair (also an annual father-daughter trip)…”our” flower garden…the smell of fresh varnish and paint (yes, strangely, I like them)…Gunsmoke (especially Festus!)… sawdust, the smell of freshly mown grass…my rolltop desk (gorgeous, solid oak, he made it for me when I was a teenager)…my dollhouse…putting up the Christmas tree together…going downtown to see the Christmas lights and decorations on the Nicollet Mall (yet another annual father-daughter tradition)…going to Midnight Mass and sitting between mom and dad…Sunday matinees…Laurel and Hardy on Sunday mornings (we went to mass on Saturday night, I still think it was so we could watch Laurel and Hardy on WCCO in the morning even though my parents would never admit it)…zucchini cornbread the summer of the Great Zucchini Takeover of the garden (shudder)…Memorial Day 1992…Baccalaureate mass and party at Boston College, 1991…and most of all, of course, the Minnesota Twins, so many games every year without fail, especially the 1987 season (Magic! as the Strib so aptly proclaimed)…our last conversation, when we laughed and joked for 15 minutes straight, (long-distance even!)….
Yeah, I’ve been blessed. Unbelievably, astonishingly blessed.