Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Raise a glass for my Dad - it's his birthday

I don't remember the date my father died.

I have to go back and look at my blog once we get into July. Maybe it's because he'd been so ill for so long and his death was, while still sudden in a weird sort of way, not unexpected.

Or maybe I just prefer beginnings to endings.

He was born May 5th. I never even heard of Cinco de Mayo growing up. Partly this was because I lived in a small town in Connecticut where the closest we got to the Mexican culture was when my mother served tacos (it's unfortunate she didn't also serve margaritas because some days we all could've used one). But mainly it's because it's always been Dad's birthday.

I wish I could remember fun things we did that day. But I can't, which I guess is pretty typical when you're a kid. Nothing is bigger than your OWN birthday, right? As we got older and moved away, it usually was just a phone call.

My Dad and I didn't always have the easiest relationship. We were too much alike. Stubborn. Opinionated.

He was also hot-tempered and impatient and sometimes embarrassed the hell out of us in public by either shouting about something or joking with any stranger he met.

There were times I'd call the house and he'd answer and I'd just ask for Mom. How much that must've hurt his feelings, that one of his daughters didn't want to talk to him.

But he was so proud. Of all of us. I think he might have told me that once. He liked to brag about his daughter the lawyer, his son the computer genius, his youngest daughter the sportswriter. 

And he genuinely enjoyed kids. He would take an afternoon off from work to come watch my sister and me play basketball. He let us dive off his knee in the pool, or let us pull him around by his big toe as he floated on his back. I think there were games of Candyland when we were small.

We loved it, when he would just play.

What he never got to do is enjoy my own kids. He met Sawyer twice, once as an infant and once when he was about 18 months. My Dad talked for his remaining years about Sawyer riding in his wheelchair.

He never met Sage. He died before I was even pregnant with X. He missed out. So did my kids.

So did I.

He would've loved to have visited us, to sit in his chair and have the kids climb on him and show him their toys and just talk to him about the butterfly they saw and ask him how it is we got into the Milky Way, anyway? He could've come to watch Sawyer play Little League, Sage dance at her recital. X do his own bouncy-legged, head-bobbing boogie.

And they would've loved him, even though he was not the same man that I grew up with. He was no longer the 6-foot-4, overweight, fire-red haired larger-than-life guy with the ear-blasting cackling laugh.

No. They would've just known him as Grandpa. Who always sat. He was thin and his hair had faded (although he still had that cackle). He seemed smaller. But the child within him wasn't.

I'm angry. I think it's not fair, and didn't he love us enough to take care of himself? He quit smoking, but he was overweight. His diabetes went untreated for too long. He cheated with the chocolate bars he'd hide. One health issue led to another and another and another. There was no going back.

Unfortunately, there was no going forward, either.

Dad's gone. Grandpa's gone. 

Today is just another day for my kids. No homemade cards to send. No off-key singing on the phone.

But I remember.

Happy birthday, Dad. Happy birthday.

15 comments:

Kassie said...

I get angry at my mom too. Why didn't she take better care of herself? I wish Graham was able to get to know her. He met her quite a few times in his first 7 months, but that is it. There are pictures, no memories.

Missy said...

Such a heartbreakingly honest and sweet post.

Kelli/plangirl said...

Hugs to you, Cheryl.

Adelle said...

Funny (not really) this week I have been thinking and writing constantly about my mom. She died in August, four years ago, but it's Mother's Day that I remember her the most.

She never got to play with my kids, either. And she would have loved to. Oh, she would have loved to.

Thanks for sharing. It was a beautiful and honest tribute!

Tom and Karen Mortensen said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.
My father passed away in 1985 and that was before any of us had children. I miss that Dad didn't know them. He would have loved them.

the mombshell said...

xoxo

Magimom said...

Raising a glass to your dad! Happy Birthday to him! Hugs for you as well! I miss my daddy to - his birthday is in December. Such a wonderfully sweet post!

Pamela said...

So beautifully written Cheryl. It made me tear up thinking of my own parents. I'm lucky to still have them both but they live across the country & rarely get to see my son. I know they treasure every moment they've had with him like I'm sure your Dad treasured the moments he had with you & your family.

The Mayor! said...

:-((
Very poignant....

Cheryl said...

Thank you, everyone. Your thoughts are appreciated. My brother pointed out that it probably wouldn't have been like I imagined. But that's the thing about people who have died - the ones left behind are allowed to imagine how things would be, and they're entitled to that.

Catherine B said...

Very touching. Sad when we loose a parent young. I can relate.

Marit said...

Such a beautiful and honest post. Makes me think about my own pops. How I miss him! I so wish he could have known our little sweetie. Thanks for sharing.

Salt said...

This is such a wonderful tribute to your father. Happy birthday to him. He clearly has such a special place in your heart forever!

Kris said...

I feel you! I was heartbroken not to have Dad walk me down the aisle, but what I miss most is being able to watch him interact with our kids. He was so goofy! B and I enjoy passing that goofiness along to our kids. Smiles and hugs.

Varda said...

Hi, Cheryl, I've been mostly following you on twitter & reading you on SVMG OC site, but was roaming around your blog and came upon this post, which really moved me & I could certainly relate. My blog "The Squashed Bologna" is mostly about the final months of my father's life (he just passed this March) & if it wouldn't make you too sad thought you might want to come visit.

I look forward to meeting up w/ you at blogHer 10 - in my home town here in NYC.

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