Today would have been my dad’s 61st birthday. I imagine if he were still here with us, he would have probably played a morning round of golf with friends. Then he and Mom would have made some sandwiches at the house for lunch and then taken off to see the afternoon showing of the latest summer flick. After that we would have probably arranged a meal out together as a family, typically somewhere like Red Lobster (one of his favorites). It would have been a good day celebrating the one we love.
Instead, we were left with simply our memories. Now my father passed away 4 years ago and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of him. And typically my mind wanders to remembrances of him a little more often on special days such as his birthday or a holiday. But today he seemed to be especially on my mind. I felt him with me all day. I woke up with thoughts of him and here I am, half an hour to midnight and writing this.
I wonder if I’m just being overly nostalgic because I have had a lot going on in life over the last several months. I’ve ended a relationship with the last guy my father ever met and that, although I hate to admit it, is bothering me quite a bit. The fact that any future partner I may have in my life will never have the chance to get “Dad approval” actually brings a tinge of sadness to my heart. On a positive note though, I received a promotion at work and am finally getting my own department and becoming a supervisor. Again, knowing that these types of successes in life are just the things I would want to share with him and not being able to, well, that saddens my heart a little more.
But I don’t want to give the impression that I’m super sad. Quite the contrary. I mean, of course, I would give everything just to be able to have my Pop back in my life. But the second best thing is knowing he will always be with me. Through every disappointment and every success. Through every good day and every bad day. In every decision. In every moment alone and those wonderful moments shared with family and friends. He will be there every time I laugh with my mother and in every sweet conversation I have with my niece, his granddaughter. He will be there when I’m listening to music or when I watch the History Channel. He will simply be there. These five words bring me a great deal of comfort and because I know this, I know he is always with me. I had several reminders of that today.
As I drive to work each morning, there is one particular bend in the old country road I take every day that creates a perfect scene, a perfect moment. Driving through it only takes about five seconds but it typically is the best five seconds of my day. As you come out of a sharp turn, the road begins to slope downward. Then, looking past the slope a little further the road opens into another bend at the bottom that heads over a bridge. Overhead the trees cover the road so that you cannot see the sky, simply the sunlight as it filters through the green leaves that are turned golden as they are bathed in the shimmer of light. The leaves fracture the streams of luminous glow and send it cascading over the pavement, a slight, misty haze in the air. With the river as a backdrop I can think of nothing more beautiful than this moment each day. That moment, if I could capture it and replay it 20 times a day, well, it would be a good day every day. I say all this to describe the magical moment I experienced this morning as I passed through this sacred point in my route to work. Nothing unusual or different about this day except the light. The sunlight had a heavier tinge of orange this morning which painted the trees and road in the shades of fall. Very striking. I thought an appropriate, simple gift for my dad, from our Heavenly Father. What a beautiful day, what a beautiful moment shared in quiet with my dad as I simply drove to work.
As I progressed through my busy day, all the projects I’m managing right now, all the people I’m collaborating with and coordinating work for, I just thought about how Dad would be proud of his little girl. I think he would feel that some of his superior management skills had rubbed off. I would also like to think that while he was here I made him feel that his sacrifices in this life were not in vain. That I have come as far as I have in large part due to his generous contributions to my education, my upbringing, my work ethic and simply being a good father.
As I left work today and headed to church, I was greeted again with the sunlight. This time though, instead of the early morning sun, God created the most beautiful sunset. As the golden rays spilled out from behind the clouds and stretched out towards the earth, I was embraced by the warmth and comfort of his memory. It was almost as I could feel him saying to me, “I’ve had a good day, I love you and don’t worry about me.” Again, just another stolen moment with my Dad.
And lastly, each month we have a birthday night in choir. Someone brings a cake, someone brings drinks and after choir rehearsal we celebrate all the birthdays for that month. A tradition is to also sing “Happy Birthday.” So tonight as we celebrated this month’s birthdays, I thought yet again of my father and I sang “Happy Birthday” to him with all my heart, because after all, that is now where he lives.
Happy Birthday Dad! I love you and miss you very much.