Happy Birthday, Dad. Born in 1920, he would have been 103 yesterday. He died in November 2019, six years after Mom and just four months before he turned 100. I think about my parents a lot, reminiscing “growing-up” years on the farm. All the memories. My psychiatrist brother-in-law once said that after someone dies, we tend to remember more of the positive things. He joked, “Ever notice in an obituary how wonderful the deceased was?” It’s pretty much true. Besides, let’s face it, who wants to write a nasty one when you’re the one still living?
Dad was complex, hard to read, detached and unpredictable. Like many in his generation, he didn’t verbalize his love and rarely showed it. Sometimes, I’ve wondered if he loved me. I recall all the times where I had no idea. However, other memories drift in. Like the time he was one of the first to purchase a stereo and the Beach Boy’s first album for us four kids. Or the times we traditionally drove the two hours to Lincoln to buy our Easter outfits at the Robert Hall store. One time, when I was eleven, I found the perfect dress. Wide alternating pale orange and cream stripes ran horizontally through it with a soft chiffon ribbon intertwined through the collar in front, ending in a big bow at the back. Turning around in the three-way mirror, I loved it, yet knew it was too much money. Dad was sitting in a chair near the mirror. “Do you like it?” he said. “I do, but it’s too expensive.” Without a pause, he nodded his head and said, “Then, get it.” The memory warms me. I was in seventh grade when I somehow stumbled across a magazine by Professor Beery and showed it to my Dad. The pictures of the horses were breath-taking – their heads held high, coats glistening in the sun and arched tails. Included were instructions on riding a horse. Dad surprised me one day and told me to get the mail. I sauntered up our tree-lined road leading to the mailbox, opened it and pulled out the first of a magazine he ordered me for the next twelve months. Maybe he did know me?
Dad was in a nursing home for two years before he died, a relief for us when he did. He was a man who couldn’t handle vulnerability. Despite this, in his last years, I told him I loved him. Tough memories, good memories – a mixture of life. I miss you, Dad. Have a good birthday; one full of peace and happiness.